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Tailwind-driven change: eye on prosecutorial reform

Reform is a key byword of criminal law these days. A recent in-depth media report on charging, plea negotiations and sentencing cites strong evidence that material prosecutorial adjustments from a long-time norm are occurring across the country.

And from coast to coast. The political publication Slate cites newly emerging “reform-minded prosecutors” from New York to San Francisco. Many district attorneys in major municipalities spanning the United States are bucking long-held and dominant realities that spawn harsh charging edicts and uncompromising government demands for notably stringent post-conviction outcomes.

Centrally, those have focused on the longest possible incarceration terms, which prosecutors have aggressively pushed for since the advent of the so-called War on Crime decades ago.

That response has had crystal-clear effects. Most notably, perhaps, it has spotlighted the U.S. as the globe’s most aggressive nation when it comes to putting offenders behind bars. The United States imprisons more individuals than other country on earth in both per capita and absolute terms.

A rapidly growing and bipartisan band of critics condemns America’s “lock them up and for a long time” criminal law philosophy. It has become widely appreciated across the country that the nation’s punishment-anchored rationale has yielded multiple negative effects, including these:

  • Grossly overcrowded state and federal prisons
  • Incarceration upkeep costs that are unsustainably high
  • Inequity in sentencing re specific racial and socio-economic groups
  • High reoffending rate for individuals released after long confinement periods

Such factors collectively influence what is now an entrenched reform movement with traction. We’ll take a closer look at some of its material details in our next blog post.

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