Councilman Rory Lancman, who represents areas including Fresh Meadows, Jamaica and Kew Gardens in City Hall, is eyeing the Queens District Attorney’s seat that Richard A. Brown has held for 27 years.
“We’re in desperate need of reforming our criminal justice system,” Lancman told QNS in an interview. “We need to make it more fair and equitable for everyone.” This includes an increased focus “on issues that matter to women and working people,” he noted.
Brown ran unopposed for re-election in 2015. He is currently serving his seventh term in office.
Earlier this year, Lancman, an attorney, was selected to lead the City Council’s Committee on the Justice System, which has oversight of the city’s courts, district attorneys and legal service providers, as well as the mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. The newly formed committee also assumed the jurisdiction of the Committee on Courts and Legal Services, which the councilman chaired in his previous term.
In the role, Lancman and his colleagues “have explored almost every aspect of the criminal justice system,” including broken windows policies, wage theft and policies relating to the opioid crisis.
The councilman has spoken in favor of criminal justice reforms involving cash bail, marijuana enforcement and prosecution policies and Rikers Island, an institution “beyond reform and repair.” He spoke in favor of reducing the population of Rikers and placing smaller jails adjacent to the city’s existing courthouses.
“Rikers is a horrible nightmare and a tremendous waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said. “No one should be sitting on Rikers because they’re too poor to pay bail.”
Earlier this year, Lancman introduced a bill that would require bail bond businesses to post signage designed by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) that would disclose the maximum premium or compensation that can be charged for giving bail bond or property as bail. It would also establish a complaint mechanism for consumers at the Department of Consumer Affairs should a premium or compensation charged conflict with the state’s insurance law.
The bill passed the City Council on July 18 and awaits the mayor’s signature.
Lancman was one of the sponsors of the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which passed the City Council in 2016. The bill decriminalizes certain low-level offenses (i.e. open container of alcohol, littering, public urination). Offenders are instead sent to civil court.
The councilman was also the prime sponsor of a bill that criminalized “revenge porn” — the practice of spreading X-rated content of an individual without their consent online — in New York City, effective December 2017.
“We’ve tried to move the system to focus on the things that really matter,” he said.
The next election for Queens District Attorney takes place in 2019.