As part of an ongoing effort to partner with Brooklyn communities in making “the borough safer and fairer for all,” Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez says he had the honor last week to host a group of dignitaries from Caribbean nations for a roundtable discussion at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.
The Puerto Rican-born Gonzalez said he and staff members gave an office overview and shared some of the “notable initiatives” to members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Consular Corps in New York.
Gonzalez said these “notable initiatives” included the Conviction Review Unit and recent policy regarding non-citizen defendants “that are part of the office’s efforts to ensure fair justice for all who live and work in Brooklyn.”
The attendees included dignitaries from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago, along with members of Brooklyn’s Caribbean communities, Gonzalez said.
Last week, Gonzalez received endorsements from three of central Brooklyn’s key state officials, saying that Assembly Members Rodneyse Bichotte (42nd AD), Tremaine Wright (56th AD) and Latrice Walker (55th AD) have thrown their support behind him, citing his progressive reforms that protect Brooklyn’s immigrant communities, children and quality of life.
The three state officials represent the central Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Brownsville, Flatbush and more.
“Immigrant Brooklynites are our neighbors. DA Gonzalez understands this,” said Bichotte, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District.
“In the short time that he has been leading the district attorney’s office, Eric has addressed the concerns of the diverse immigrant communities of Brooklyn by opposing the Trump administration’s harmful proposals that can, at the very least, disrupt the daily life of some Brooklynites and at worst, break up families,” she added. “I am delighted to put my support behind Eric. He will sincerely continue to address issues that our immigrant communities are facing in Brooklyn.”
Last month, Gonzalez said he implemented a new immigration policy that seeks equal and fair justice for all Brooklyn residents, including the foreign-born.
Gonzalez hired full-time immigration lawyers to work with the assistant district attorneys to evaluate the unintended consequences of a plea, and train them to try to avoid giving someone the conviction that will get them deported.
In Brooklyn, studies have shown that black people were nine times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite the fact that there is virtually no racial disparity in marijuana use, according to Gonzalez.
“The human toll of these policies cannot be understated, as a criminal conviction serves as a lifelong impediment when it comes to education, housing and employment,” he said.
In 2014, then-Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson made New York history by announcing that the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office would no longer prosecute cases involving the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
This policy, which Gonzalez said he wrote and implemented, was “a commonsense step forward for law enforcement in Brooklyn by freeing up police officers and prosecutors to focus on serious threats to public safety.”
Gonzalez said he developed the Young Adult Court, a ground-breaking initiative that handles cases of young people up to the age of 24 who are too old to be treated as juveniles, but who research tells us are like juveniles in important ways.
He said the Young Adult Court offers these young adults a wide array of services and alternative sentences based on their needs.
“This allows them to keep a clean record and on a better path,” he said, adding that this approach also improves public safety in the long run by strengthening community relations.
“I am honored to receive the endorsement of three progressive and reform-minded legislators,” Gonzalez added. “Brooklyn is safer than it has been in years.
“Working together, we will continue to enhance public safety while still sending fewer people to jail and prison,” he continued. “In Brooklyn, we have shown that reducing incarceration and public safety are not incompatible when done smartly. I look forward to working proactively with the assembly members to address additional criminal justice policies and reforms.”
On Wednesday, Gonzalez said he received the endorsement of more than a half dozen southern Brooklyn elected officials and a prominent Russian radio host.
Assembly Members Pamela Harris and William Colton; Council Member Mark Treyger; district leaders Ari Kagan, Margarita Kagan, Charles Ragusa and Nancy Tong; and Gregory Davidzon, president and chief executive officer of Davidzon Radio 620 AM all called Gonzalez an “experienced district attorney in touch with the needs of the diverse communities of Brooklyn’s southern tier.”
With these endorsements, Gonzalez said he has “solidified a large base of support across myriad neighborhoods and communities throughout Brooklyn in his quest to continue his work.”
Gonzalez has also received the endorsement of Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, the Working Families Party, the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association, the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, 32BJ Service Employees International Union, the United Federation of Teachers, the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union, and the Transport Workers Union, among others.