By Miriam Krinsky
Tough-on-crime proponents frequently and falsely claim that reform-minded prosecutors don’t hold people accountable, that is until they disagree with who is being held accountable. Attacks on reformers like Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg are not about public safety but rather politically motivated efforts to exploit people’s fears in an effort to maintain political power and preserve the status quo.
An elected prosecutor’s obligation is to justice, not partisan politics. Ultimately, if the former president is indicted, it won’t be because DA Bragg thinks that our criminal legal system must change, nor because he believes the system should embrace modern, data-driven strategies proven to enhance safety. It will be because a majority of the grand jurors reviewed the evidence against the former president and determined that it was more likely than not that he committed a crime. For any politicians to claim otherwise is a misleading and dangerous attempt to deflect responsibility and distract from their own failures.
Those committed to failed tough-on-crime policies have tried to paint reform-minded prosecutors like DA Bragg as ‘radical’ or ‘woke’ by using vague rhetoric they have struggled to define. But it’s not ‘radical’ to want to reduce long-standing racial disparities in the criminal legal system. It’s not ‘radical’ to believe that all communities would be safer and healthier if we invested more resources in prevention instead of simply punitive responses. It’s not ‘radical’ to think no one should be behind bars and unable to tuck their kids in at night simply because they’re poor. It’s not ‘radical’ to embrace processes that ensure innocent people are released from prison. And it’s not ‘radical’ to think that accountability should be applied evenly, regardless of the title someone has, the political clout they wield or the uniform they wear.
What is radical are the attempts to undermine and undemocratically remove from office reform-minded prosecutors who were elected by their communities precisely because of their vision for a more fair and just criminal legal system. It’s also radical to consistently refuse to take any commonsense actions to limit access to guns while blaming others for increases in gun violence.
No one is above the law, and all are innocent until proven guilty. Both of these pillars of our criminal legal system apply to the former president. A majority of jurors appear poised to return an indictment, and a majority of voters continue to favor modern, data-driven prosecution strategies. Only one of these debates will be resolved in the court of public opinion. The other will be resolved in a court of law.
In the meantime, as local and national leaders continue to mislead the public about reform because they think it’s a good political maneuver, DA Bragg and his peers across the country will keep fighting for the justice, safety and dignity that all communities deserve. And we should all stand with them in that effort.
Miriam Krinsky Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution. She issued this statement in response to the harmful and misleading attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and other reform-minded prosecutors nationwide.