Queens Native Looks To Bring Criminal Justice Reform Home

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Jumping into a crowded field to replace Queens District Attorney Richard Brown is Mina Malik, a lecturer at the Harvard Law School and the deputy attorney general for the District of Columbia.

Despite being up against Borough President Melinda Katz, public defender Tiffany Cabán, Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), retired Queens Supreme Court Judge Gregory Lasak and Deputy Chief Jose Nieves, of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, she believes her unique experience on both sides of the law will distinguish her from the pack.

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“I have devoted my entire career to criminal justice working for the prosecution and the defense,” said Malik who was raised in Corona and Elmhurst. “I started my career off as a criminal investigator working for the D.C. defender service and investigating cases for people who could not afford to have an attorney and then I came back after law school to serve the community of Queens as Special Victims prosecutor for 15 years.”

During her tenure at the Queens District Attorney’s office, she prosecuted domestic violence, child sex abuse, human trafficking, sexual assault, sex trafficking and crimes against the elderly cases, according to Malik.

She later worked with District Attorney Ken Thompson, a criminal justice reformer in Brooklyn.

“He revolutionized and reformed the justice system in Brooklyn,” said Malik. “He tapped me to be his special counsel to him [and] I went there because he had a different vision of how justice could be meted out…one of the first things that we did was build a meaningful conviction review unit.”

Later she became the director for the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, an oversight agency over the police force in the country, the NYPD.

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“I left the Queens DA’s office to be an agent of change,” said Malik. “We completed a data transparency initiative that I launched while I was an executive director, which was the first of its kind in the nation…I wanted to hold officers accountable for their misdeeds, but as a prosecutor, I want to hold people accountable for the wrongs that they have done in society.”

At Harvard Law, she is the senior advisor of the Fair Punishment Project and in the AG’s office in D.C. she has headed 110 people at its Public Safety Division working on criminal justice reform, juvenile justice reform and restorative justice initiatives.

“We worked on a mental health court, a drug court and diversion programs and anti-truancy programs to break the school-to-prison-pipeline,” said Malik.

As a person of color who didn’t grow up with much, she wants to bring what she learned in Brooklyn and D.C. back to her home borough of Queens.

“I grew up in Corona in a basement apartment…and my mom was a nurse and my father was a machine operator,” said Malik, who is South Asian and Hispanic. “We lived in that basement apartment until they saved enough money to buy a house in Elmhurst.”

She is married to a Derek Sells, an African-American civil rights attorney and former public defender.

“What I saw growing up is that people like myself and my husband weren’t in the criminal justice system unless they had pending charges against them,” said Malik. “I’ve decided to change that.”

Her platform consists of fundamental fairness, eliminating economic oppression, holding law enforcement accountable, keeping people safe and creating a transparent, responsible and diverse DA’s office.

“Let’s implement a restorative justice initiative that allows communities to remain intact where the victim and the offender are brought together to address the harm that was caused and figure out a way that the harm doesn’t happen again,” said Malik. “My lived experience as an immigrant, a woman, a person of color, a mother of two black sons – that is something that I bring to the table that no other candidate brings to the table…I’m the only person that has looked into the eyes of a woman who was brutally raped…and looked into the eyes of a wrongfully convicted person and promised all of them that they would get justice.”

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