Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced the creation of the Special Victims Division Advisory Council, hoping that its quarterly input will provide him and his staff with outside guidance and perspective.
More than a dozen representatives of advocacy, survivor services, and legal services providers sit on the Advisory Council, including those from Safe Horizon, NYC-Anti-Violence Project, Women’s Equal Justice, New York University, and the Urban Resource Institute. Manhattan Legal Services tweeted after Bragg’s announcement that they were “proud to be part of a new community initiative working to protect survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and elder abuse.”
“We created the Special Victims Division Advisory Council to dig into what’s working, what isn’t working, and solicit feedback from external stakeholders on an ongoing basis,” said Bragg. “Strengthening trust with community partners and reducing barriers to services for survivors lead to more reporting and increased participation in the criminal justice process.”
The council will be helmed by Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC) executive director Maria Lizardo and Sanctuary for Families CEO and former judge Judy Harris Kluger. Both co-chairs also made comments in the press release. “NMIC commends the efforts of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to center and amplify the voices of survivors experiencing intimate partner violence,” said Lizardo. Kluger hinted at an expansive role for the council, saying that they “looked forward to hearing from all stakeholders and translating that feedback into concrete action.”
Members of the Advisory Council serve on a volunteer basis for a two-year term. According to the Manhattan DA’s office, members will speak from the breadth of their experience rather than only for the organizations they are representing. In addition, the Manhattan DA’s office anticipates that potential new members can come from an organization that has been previously represented.
The Special Victims Division as a whole was created by Bragg in July 2022, elevating the role of the Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence Bureau and the Child Abuse, Human Trafficking, and Elder Abuse Units in particular.