Both Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez recently pledged to prosecute fewer New Yorkers for turnstile jumping—a misdemeanor disproportionately issued to black and Latino New Yorkers. Starting this fall, Vance's office will encourage the NYPD to issue civil summonses for the offense. Those who are arrested will have the option to enter a diversion program—community service, perhaps, or a storytelling class on "taking responsibility" for one's actions. Gonzalez, whose office has been less specific on details, said he is "fully committed" to "using diversion and other approaches that reduce our reliance on incarceration."

The planned shift to more lenient prosecution has been praised by public defenders, who are critical of the NYPD for channeling arrestees into a database accessible to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The NYPD says three out of every four turnstile jumpers who get caught are issued a civil summons, but arrests still occur in the thousands: according to DNAInfo, 8,625 people were arrested for theft of service between January and June of this year.

But while nonprofits including the Legal Aid Society, Bronx Defenders, Queens Law Associates, and the Riders Alliance today called on Queens DA Richard Brown and Bronx DA Darcel Clark to follow suit, grassroots police reform groups remain critical of any measure that, as they see it, continues to criminalize poverty.

"What the Manhattan DA is doing doesn't go far enough," said Josmar Trujillo, of the Coalition to End Broken Windows. "We don't believe anyone should face any kind of punitive sanction for fare beating, because in our view people aren't doing this because they are criminals."

Vance stressed in his June announcement that "individuals who pose a demonstrated threat to public safety" will still face criminal prosecution if arrested for turnstile jumping, without specifics.

A recent study released by transit reform advocates found that more than a quarter of low-income working New Yorkers were unable to afford subway or bus fare at least once in 2015.

"The criminal justice system needs to be reduced," Trujillo said. "It doesn't need to find ways to be kinder or gentler."

VOCAL-NY, a grassroots coalition of low-income New Yorkers, signed on to Monday's release directed at the Queens and Bronx DAs, but suggested that any prosecutorial discretion go hand-in-hand with a memorandum on arrests. "The NYPD should stop its use of ineffective broken windows policing tactics," co-director Alyssa Aguilera stated.

But some public defenders said that the call for prosecutorial leniency is pragmatic. "Certainly decriminalization, it's not going to happen," said Tim Rountree, head of the Legal Aid Society's criminal office in Queens. "So you need to take a new approach."

"Not every person arrested for fare beating needs to be in diversion," Rountree said. "If they are addicts or have mental health issues that's one thing. But if you are a working person with no other issues, then it's not appropriate."

Still, he added, while diversion programs have "plusses and minuses... obviously anything is better than jail."

The Bronx DA's office did not immediately comment on today's call to action; the Queens DA declined to take a position. "No decision has been made at this time as we are still evaluating the proposal," DA Brown said in a statement.

Frustrated with waiting for some sort of sea change in the courts, or City Hall, Trujillo urged subway riders to help those in need by offering a subway swipe.

"It's the moral thing to do," he said. "Today is the three year anniversary of [the death of] Eric Garner. That was a broken windows offense. We have the power to stop those interactions from happening. These nonprofits should be telling everyone at the top of their lungs to swipe everyone in."

[Update 5:00 p.m.]: Clark, the Bronx DA, stated Monday that, "We are reviewing the Manhattan DA's Office’s newly-announced policy regarding subway-related theft of services offenses and are working with our law enforcement partners to see if there are ways to expand diversion for low level crimes like transit offenses without compromising public safety."