Eliza Orlins

Democratic Candidate for Manhattan District Attorney

Running as the only public defender in the race, she will prioritize the discontinuation of the prosecution of low-level offenses that are a direct result of addiction, homelessness, mental illness, poverty, or youth. She will consider indigency in determining whether to charge suspects with crimes that have fines or fees while others are not.

“Prosecutors routinely destroy people’s lives, with no accountability. They hold positions of power in organizations that rampantly violate human rights and human dignity.”  (Twitter)

“The reality is that a punitive criminal legal system does not keep us safe and it never will.”

Qualifications/ Experience

Prosecutorial Experience

  • Orlins has no prosecutorial experience. She has never prosecuted a case, nor has she ever worked in a prosecutor’s office in any capacity.

Managerial Experience

  • It is not clear what managerial experience Orlins has.

Top Priorities as DA

  • Shrink the Footprint of the DA’s Office: The central tenet of Orlins’s candidacy is reducing the scope and budget of the office, decreasing staff and “handing over money” to community groups to use for restorative justice practices, drug treatment, and mental health services. (Source: 5bd.org)
  • Overhaul the “Conviction Integrity Program”: Orlins will establish a Conviction Review Unit (CRU) and will provide it with substantial funding for attorneys, investigators, and support staff. The CRU will aggressively look at injustice in the prosecutorial process and make policy recommendations to avoid future wrongful convictions.
Candidate's Standing On The Issues

Prosecution of Crime

  • “If our criminal legal system is going to continue to have a prosecutor’s office, then it’s imperative to identify concrete ways of limiting the reach of the prosecutor’s power.” Orlins pledges to decline to prosecute most misdemeanor cases altogether. (Source: Gothamist)
  • Orlins proposes to shift away from what she sees as over prosecution of low-level offenses, and divert resources into preventive programs such as drug and mental treatment, and community-led alternatives to incarceration. (Source: Law 360)
  • “I’ve seen how the criminal legal system is not broken, as some people say. It’s rigged,” she said. “It’s rigged in favor of those who are wealthy, well connected and powerful, and against everyone else.”
  • Orlins supports the legalization of all drugs, not only marijuana. (Source: 5bd.org)

Public Safety

  • She will advocate for the immediate closure of Rikers Island and reallocate funds to community-based resources but has not identified a specific plan for how she will address the transfer of violent criminals currently being held at the prison.
  • Orlins does not believe the criminal justice system creates more safety, nor does she believe that criminal justice should not be used to solve major social and community problems. (Source: 5bd.org)

On Guns

  • Orlins believes punishing people who possess firearms with jail time won’t help solve the issue of gun violence. She plans on focusing on how guns are trafficked into the city, and on community-based services that help prevent escalations. (Source: Law 360)

On Recidivism

  • Orlins stance on repeat offenders is not entirely clear, but with decarceration as a central tenet of her candidacy, coupled with her statements about penalizing those with “challenging life circumstances”, it seems as though she would opt for leniency even in cases of recidivism.

On the role of NYPD

  • Orlins has called for a 50% reduction to the NYPD budget. (Source: 5bd.org)
  • She will create a Police Accountability Unit within the District Attorney’s office, the work of which will be carefully siloed in order to remain fully independent from attorneys in the DA’s office whose work relies on police testimony. The Unit will be staffed with attorneys, investigators, and community liaisons with expertise in handling police misconduct. (Source: elizaorlins.com)

Mental Illness & Crime

  • Orlins has said “our neighbors who are suffering from mental health issues should not have to be locked up in order to receive the treatment they need” but has not provided specifics on how community-led diversion and treatment programs would work.

About Eliza Orlins

Eliza Orlins has been a public defender at The Legal Aid Society in Manhattan for 10 years. Her vision for the DA’s office is centered in decarceration. She supports the legalization of all drugs and the immediate closure of Rikers Island. Orlins believes that the criminal justice system should not be used to solve major social and community problems.

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