Are District Attorneys Impeding Criminal Justice Reform?
Date:  05-16-2016

ACLU of Oregon report accuses most prosecutors of having a strong self-interest to maintain more power than judges
From the introduction to the report Roadblocks to Reform: District Attorneys, Elections, and the Criminal Justice Status Quo:

Over the past several years, a new consensus regarding problems in America’s criminal justice system and the need for reform has emerged among political leaders and the public. There is now widespread recognition that the War on Drugs is a failed strategy and the current level of incarceration is unsustainable. High profile leaders across the political spectrum—from President Obama, to Senator Rand Paul, to the Koch Brothers, and bipartisan groups of leaders and elected officials in many states—are actively pursuing criminal justice reform. There is bipartisan consensus that spending billions of dollars each year to fill prisons is a costly and ineffective approach to addressing crime. We now know more about what constitutes smart on crime policies, and there is a politically diverse groundswell focused on walking back the policies of the 1980s and 1990s that made America the world leader in the use of incarceration in a system further shamed by severe racial disparity.

Despite this national consensus and despite bipartisan efforts in Congress and state legislatures across the country, there is a consistent roadblock to reform: district attorneys and prosecutors. District attorneys (DAs) seem to be stuck in the 1990s, advocating to maintain the status quo and resisting evidence-based, proven strategies to spend criminal justice resources more wisely and reduce our reliance on incarceration, while improving public safety.

Although there are some reform-minded DAs, they are the exception rather than the rule. There are multiple reasons why district attorneys are uninterested in changing the current criminal justice system, and fight to maintain it.

There is a powerful self-interest at play. The proliferation of mandatory minimum sentencing fundamentally shifted power within the criminal justice system from judges to DAs.

Read Roadblocks to Reform: District Attorneys, Elections, and the Criminal Justice Status Quo here.