By Citlalli Florez
PHILADELPHIA, PA – There has been a recent movement by political players to oppose “reform” district attorneys, described as progressive prosecutors, and suggests while they do not all agree on the same policies they do agree government resources should only be used for the most dangerous crimes, according to the New York Times “Editorial: The Empire Strikes Back – Against Progressive Prosecutors”
Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia County Attorney since 2017, is one of those progressives DAs.
Sometimes called “21st century prosecutors,” Krasner’s ilk, said The Times, believe people who are accused of committing non-violent offenses should be shifted away from the criminal justice system; they would instead be sent to drug treatment, mental health care, or other programs as needed, according to the study.
Many progressive prosecutors, like Krasner, also oppose money bail but instead support pretrial incarceration for accused persons who allegedly pose the most risk. Many such elements and beliefs are in “21 principles for 21st century prosecutors.”
The principles included were created by a coalition of justice reform organizations and individuals.
In an interview, from the book Change From Within: Reimagining the 21st Century Prosecutor, Krasner revealed his hope the movement “leads to a much less punitive, much more rehabilitative system, one premised much more on prevention rather than punishment.”
The book includes profiles and statements from 13 reform DAs. It was written by a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Miriam Krinsky, who is also the executive director of a support organization for reform D.A.s known as “Fair and Just Prosecution.”
Krasner was reelected last year. He describes himself as a “progressive prosecutor.” However, Republicans in the Pennsylvania Legislature recently filed articles of impeachment against him after passing a report criticizing his policies.
The Times said there were no identified impeachable offenses outlined in the report, as noted by Krasner. At the same time, Pennsylvania lawmakers never looked into impeaching other prosecutors who have been accused of actual misconduct.
Those prosecutors might include Seth Williams, who was indicted for 23 corruption counts and sentenced to five years for bribery, and Jeffrey Thomas who was suspended and is awaiting trial for rape charges, noted The Times.
But in Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren for “incompetence” and “neglect of duty” because he said he would not prosecute alleged violators of Florida’s abortion ban, said The Times, that added the State Attorney also chose not to prosecute any accused violators of potential legislation which may criminalize gender-affirming care.
Attorney Warren is now suing to be reinstated in his position and to protect voters’ ability to choose their officials.
The Times suggests voters all over the nation have begun to elect reform DAs because they believe that old style prosecution has fundamental flaws, and they want district attorneys who take responsibility for the justice system in office; they want the system to work more efficiently and equitably.
But, sometimes voters may change their feelings when there are politically motivated falsehoods tying a reform DA policies to increased crime. These increases in crime, though, occurred since the end of pandemic lockdowns in mid-2020, reminds The Times.
Examples include the recall of San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin, the defeat of San Joaquin County DA Tori Verber Salazar, and the recall signature drive against Los Angeles County DA George Gascón.
Connecting prosecutorial policies to crime increases is unreasonable according to a study conducted in Suffolk County, Mass. For example, Boston, which is in the county, had a decline in murders in 2021 when progressive DA Rachael Rollins was in office, said The Times.
The study in Suffolk County found that diverting those accused in lower-level offenses away from the criminal justice system reduces future involvement in crime. This in turn makes residents safer.
Another study, The Times noted, found homicides are rising in multiple areas within the US, but the increase is lower in areas with progressive district attorneys. There have been other reports and studies which have reached similar conclusions.