City Journal: Taking on “Progressive Prosecutors”
From San Francisco to Los Angeles to Chicago to Philadelphia to Boston, urban dwellers have elected a new breed of district attorneys who style themselves “progressive prosecutors.” In this denomination, the adjective does the heavy lifting. The prosecutors’ campaigns have been funded by the bogeyman of the Right, billionaire leftist George Soros, and animated by extreme left-wing political movements such as Black Lives Matter. The politicization of what was, in its origins, an apolitical law-enforcement function will have serious consequences for public safety and order.
According to the American Bar Association, “The prosecutor serves the public interest and should act with integrity and balanced judgment to increase public safety both by pursuing appropriate criminal charges of appropriate severity, and by exercising discretion to not pursue criminal charges in appropriate circumstances.” The California District Attorneys’ Association puts a finer point on the prosecutorial function: “The primary role of the District Attorney is to protect the community he or she is elected to serve. District Attorneys represent the public and endeavor to improve the public safety by prosecuting those who threaten the well-being of the community and its citizens by breaking the law.”
To judge them by their own words, progressive prosecutors don’t share this understanding of their role. They rarely discuss the importance of preserving public safety and prosecuting and jailing criminals. They do not campaign on safer streets or crime reduction. Indeed, they promise to end prosecution for whole classes of offenses that disproportionately affect minorities (without confronting why that may be), reducing the use of bail to detain pretrial defendants, recommending lighter sentences for convicted felons, encouraging diversion programs instead of prison, and prioritizing so-called restorative-justice schemes in place of traditional notions of retribution and incapacitation. All of this is in the service of a pet progressive project: ending “mass incarceration.” To this end, progressive prosecutors deploy an array of slogans about structural racism, disparate outcomes, and white supremacy. The relationship between this woke rhetoric and preventing an unreformed felon from robbing and raping again is never made clear.