Journal of Law and Policy


Lane Waples


Criminal justice reform is elusive in the United States. Despite evidence that the system is broken, change remains ephemeral at best. This is partially attributable to the fact that most attempts to reform the criminal legal system have occurred through the political process. However, another method of criminal justice reform is to assist communities as they address the root causes of crime. Undergirding this approach is the belief that building stronger communities contributes to less crime and reduces recidivism. After seizing $250 million via prosecutions of financial crimes in 2016, the New York County District Attorney’s Office created a “first-of-its-kind” initiative to reinvest those seized funds into the communities of Manhattan in New York City. This “Criminal Justice Investment Initiative” (CJII) seeks to empower said communities through a variety of programs to prevent crime from happening in the first place. This Note argues that prosecutorial offices across the United States should create similar initiatives that derive funding solely from seizures related to financial crimes. In doing so, it highlights why the political process is unequipped to enable criminal justice reform, explains the notion of community-based criminal justice reform, explores the CJII, and finally demonstrates the pitfalls of constructing such initiatives around traditional civil asset forfeitures.