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District Attorney

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District Attorney Matthew Van Houten

Welcome

The Tompkins County District Attorney's Office is responsible for prosecuting criminal offenses defined under State law, committed within Tompkins County.

A broad range of offenses are prosecuted, including the most serious felonies (murder, rape, robbery, etc.) down to traffic infractions (e.g., speeding).

 

Mission Statement

The Mission of the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office is:

To do the right thing, in pursuit of justice, while honoring the Tompkins County Values of Integrity, Accountability, Community and Respect;

To exercise the authority of this office with honesty, fairness, humility and candor;

To hold individuals, ourselves and the criminal justice system accountable for our actions and our decisions;

To promote a safe, healthy, and just community by implementing evidence-based approaches to reducing crime, supporting victims in healing, and demonstrating our commitment that our criminal justice system must be fair for everyone; and

To commit to embracing a culture of inclusiveness where we treat others with dignity, understanding and compassion.

 

From the Desk of the District Attorney

 

10/16/2020

I am proud to sign the joint statement from more than 68 elected prosecutors across the nation, pledging to protect the reproductive rights of our constituents.  Thank you to Fair and Just Prosecution, https://fairandjustprosecution.org/, for putting this together. (Joint Statement From Elected Prosecutors

 

10/13/2020

Message from the County Administrator Regarding Police Reform in Tompkins County: 

I will be hosting a public forum on police reform on Thursday, October 15 at 5pm. The forum will be streamed on Tompkins County’s YouTube channel and is part of the collaborative effort to reform policing with the City of Ithaca. As you may know, all municipalities with police departments are required to submit a policing reform plan to New York State by April 1, 2020 in response to State executive order 203 following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota earlier this year.

You are invited to review a prepared overview of Tompkins County governmental departments that report to the Public Safety Committee of the County Legislature and provide input on police reform via this survey.  You can also provide input through the YouTube chat function during the forum. Additional engagement opportunities, including ways for individuals to engage without internet access, will be shared with the community in the coming weeks.

The forum kicks off a series of public engagement opportunities that will be shared as Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca work with the Center for Policing Equity to review data and create reform plans. During the forum, I will provide a high-level overview of Tompkins County governmental departments, as well as share trends from community responses to the survey and outline next steps in the police reform process. 

Please feel free to forward this information to anyone you feel may be interested, and I hope to see you Thursday evening.

Best,

Jason

9/23/2020

We have an opportunity to reinvent public safety here in Tompkins County and I am very much looking forward to participating in this process.  The County task force should be starting its work soon and the voice of the District Attorney is extremely important in that dialogue.  The Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School has published a five-step policy plan that I think is insightful and well written. Five-Step Policy Plan

 

9/11/2020

The Institute for Innovation in Prosecution is a valuable resource for prosecutors who are committed to evolving and improving the criminal justice system.  The 2020 document, Prosecutorial Culture Change: A Primer, is a well written paper that I have distributed to the attorneys in this office.  While we already employ many of the recommended practices, there is always more to learn and we embrace our obligation to constantly improve. Prosecutorial Culture Change: A Primer.pdf

 

9/3/2020

The Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office is committed to implementing the best practices from progressive prosecutors across the country.  Studies like the Brennan Center for Justice’s “21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor” are extremely important and reflective of our local criminal justice system’s focus on the implementation of practices that promote public safety while treating individuals with dignity and respect.  https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/2019-08/Report_21st_century_prosecutor.pdf