Are Prosecutors the Key to Justice Reform?
Given their autonomy—only if they want to be.
A consensus is building around the need to seriously rethink the role of the prosecutor in the administration of justice. Power dynamics are unbalanced, sentencing guidelines are outdated, and old-fashioned human biases persist. And prosecutors—singularly independent agents in a justice system roiling in turmoil—have been facing growing criticism and public distrust for some time, and that disapproval is about to hit a tipping point. It’s time to curtail the power long held by these officers of the court as they promote justice, ensure fairness, and enhance public safety.
In all but four states, prosecutors are elected to office—about 2,400 of them—and many largely run unopposed in counties with strong political-party identification, places where politics are so ingrained that decisions are made well ahead of the voting booth. Party loyalty, tough-on-crime promises, or just electoral indifference—can result in prosecutors who amass and wield enormous amounts of power in the courtroom and beyond. And where there’s unchecked power, there’s often corruption, particularly in high-profile cases. In some instances, entire districts have been tainted by a reputation earned during a particularly bold district attorney’s tenure. These and other regional struggles between justice and authority have developed over decades of individual and cumulative legal acts in thousands of cities and districts…Read More (Offsite)