How To Assess Whether Your District Attorney Is A Bona Fide Progressive Prosecutor

45 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2020

See all articles by Heather Pickerell

Heather Pickerell

Harvard University; Harvard University, Harvard Law School, Harvard University, Harvard Law School, Students

Date Written: June 7, 2020

Abstract

This article serves as a surgeon general’s warning that not all progressive prosecutors are alike and provides a “weighted constellation” framework that advocates can use to assess which district attorneys deserve the progressive name. Although the justice system’s structural landmines inhibit district attorneys’ efforts to substitute law-and-order policies with more forward-thinking approaches, local prosecutors still wield enormous power; they can reduce incarceration and more equitably enforce the law. Participants in local politics should elect and support district attorneys who effect authentically progressive policies. Because not all seemingly progressive district attorneys are in fact pursuing meaningful criminal justice reform, this article aims to help advocates separate the bona fide progressives from those in sheep’s clothing. Those keen to assess their district attorney can use this article’s proposed analytical framework, which accounts for the totality of each district attorney’s circumstances but draws clear lines between progressive and non-progressive prosecution practices. This article presents fourteen buckets of prosecutorial policies that further a more dignified and fair American justice system. Advocates should use these fourteen buckets to evaluate a district attorney and—depending on the history of the prosecutor’s office and the local justice system—assign weights to each of the metrics. Advocates should then examine the district attorney’s performance for each metric, including whether the prosecutor falls outside the metric’s outer bounds, the distance between the prosecutor’s policies and the theoretically most progressive iteration of the metric, and the prosecutor’s policies compared with their peers’ policies. To aid with the last analytical step, this article provides a comparative analysis of twenty-one prosecutors’ performance against a subset of seven of the metrics — the death penalty, bail reform, decarceration and the New Jim Crow, non-prosecution and diversion, wrongful convictions, police accountability, and prosecutorial accountability.

Keywords: progressive prosecutor, progressive prosecution, prosecutor, prosecution, new jim crow, aramis ayala, beth mccann, cyrus vance, eric gonzalez, hillar moore, jackie lacey, james stewart, kim foxx, kim ogg, kym worthy, larry krasner, leon cannizzaro, mark gonzalez, abolition, defund police

Suggested Citation

Pickerell, Heather, How To Assess Whether Your District Attorney Is A Bona Fide Progressive Prosecutor (June 7, 2020). Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3621470

Heather Pickerell (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University, Harvard Law School, Harvard University, Harvard Law School, Students ( email )

United States

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