February 27, 2018

Contact: Rachel Foran, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund,, (718) 618-6929
               Alyssa Aguilera, VOCAL-NY,, (917) 200-1446

Advocates Launch ‘Court Watch NYC’ - A Community Effort to Hold Prosecutors Accountable

Over 150 trained volunteers will monitor prosecutor conduct
in Manhattan, Brooklyn and spotlight areas for reforms

NEW YORK, NY – VOCAL-NY, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, 5 Boro Defenders and criminal justice reform advocates launched ‘Court Watch NYC’ today – a community effort to monitor and document prosecutor behavior in arraignment courts.

Court Watch NYC seeks to bring accountability into the court room by training hundreds of every day New Yorkers to monitor court proceedings and determine for themselves whether the actions of the prosecutors and other court officials are in line with their vision of public safety and justice.

“Every day the fates of our fellow New Yorkers are decided in court rooms by elected and government officials with almost no public accountability. Court Watch NYC seeks to change this reality by training 100’s of New Yorkers to head into the courts and document what they see.  To end mass incarceration, it will take much more than incremental reforms – we need a broad movement of individuals educated on the issues and demanding change.” - Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director, VOCAL-NY

So far, Court Watch NYC has trained over 150 volunteers to monitor arraignment courts in Manhattan and Brooklyn, collect key data points, and report back on what they see. The data, both quantitative and qualitative, will be analyzed and shared via social media, weekly blog posts on the Court Watch NYC website, and quarterly summary reports. Court Watch NYC volunteers will be in arraignment courts six days a week on an ongoing basis.

New York City’s five District Attorneys are elected every four years and hold a significant amount of discretion over our criminal legal system. They decide what charges to bring, how much bail to request, and what to offer as plea bargains. Yet despite this power – many New Yorkers are unfamiliar with their elected District Attorney and have few mechanisms with which to hold them accountable.

As Albany debates key criminal justice reforms and New York City determines its pathway to closing Rikers, great attention is now focused towards District Attorneys and the significant role they play in keeping individuals incarcerated before their day in court.

“The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund is thrilled to be a part of Court Watch NYC,” said Rachel Foran, Managing Director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. “At the Bail Fund, we continue to see low-income New Yorkers imprisoned for their inability to afford small amounts of bail. This is despite the purported commitments of our elected district attorneys to put an end to this unjust practice. District attorneys wield immense power. Their bail requests are the reason that Rikers is filled with presumptively innocent men and women. While bail funds will never be the solution to the problem of money bail, we can - and must - work with the community to ensure that DA's are held accountable. New Yorkers demand reforms that are truly decarceral, which must include the end of the use of money bail.”

“As public defenders, we are eager for the public to witness the normalization of the daily injustices that are pervasive throughout these courtrooms. Court watching will give the public direct knowledge of the indignities imposed on our clients by prosecutors and judges who claim to represent the best interests of the community. Court watching is the first step towards to reforming the justice system to reflect the community’s true demands for a smaller, more humane, and more fair legal system. - Jerome Greco, Member of 5 Boro Defenders.