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Brooklyn DA’s Office Makes Gender-Based Violence Its Own Division

For years, domestic violence cases, which typically involve not just prosecutors, but social workers, police officers, children’s services, immigration authorities, shelters and translators, have been handled by different government offices, disjointed efforts that victims and their lawyers said tended to delay justice and left their varied needs unmet. Now, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office has consolidated these services into a single division for gender-based violence, a major restructuring that will bring twenty percent of the entire office, including more than 100 lawyers at least 30 social workers, under central leadership, the New York Times reports. Divisions are the principal organizing unit of a city prosecutor’s office, and they have multiplied in recent years: Manhattan's prosecutor now has five, while the Bronx' has six.


Until now, Brooklyn had only two: an investigations division and a trials division. By elevating gender-based violence as a third, it is assigning such crimes an extraordinary level of priority. “These cases all have very similar denominators, and we were treating them with a very siloed approach,” said the Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez. He called the new division “a model buster.” The move reflects an emerging ethos among district attorneys throughout the U.S. to reshape their offices to focus more holistically on victims, particularly those who have suffered gender-based violence. In an arrangement called “vertical prosecution,” lawyers work with teams of in-house victims’ advocates and social workers who follow a case from start to finish. Brooklyn’s division will house the domestic violence and sex crimes bureaus, the human trafficking, crimes against children and victim services units, family justice center operations and the U-Visa practice, which offers immigration protection to victims who suffered physical or mental abuse in certain crimes.

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