Prosecutorial Reform

The ACLUworks in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.

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What's at Stake

Prosecutors are the most powerful actors in the criminal legal system. They have almost unlimited power to push for more punishment, often in ways that are largely hidden from public view. This focus on obtaining convictions and securing severe prison sentences 聽 is a major driver of mass incarceration that compounds racial disparities throughout the justice system.

  • Decades of 鈥溾 policies have given prosecutors enormous power over the system in their jurisdiction. District attorneys decide who will be detained in jail before their court date, and who will be sent to state prison. They decide what crimes to charge, and they control the plea deals offered. With 95 percent of those found guilty -- including people who have pleaded guilty to a crime they didn鈥檛 commit to avoid the risk of a longer sentence or because they were under duress 鈥 prosecutors largely control who ends up behind bars.

Prosecutors also constitute a powerful lobby and they often oppose sensible bipartisan reform efforts that would reduce incarceration and create more effective, less costly alternatives to jails and prisons.

In addition to having tremendous legal power, some district attorneys and prosecutors abuse the power of their offices. DAs like New Orleans鈥檚 former DA, Leon Cannizzaro incarcerate the victims of crimes, pressure them to make false statements in order to charge the accused with more serious crimes, and even serve witnesses and victims false subpoenas and then arrest them for not following the demands of the fraudulent documents.

To end the unconstitutional deception and jailing of crime victims and witnesses by the Orleans Parish District Attorney鈥檚 Office, Civil Rights Corps, the 澳门六合开奖记录, and the ACLUof Louisiana filed a lawsuit in federal court against District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and ten assistant district attorneys.

Although district attorneys are mostly elected positions, ACLU70 percent of DAs run unopposed for reelection. But that can change. The ACLUCampaign for Smart Justice is working for prosecutorial reform in the courts, in legislatures, and through .听

Since 2017, ACLUSmart Justice has engaged in 45 district attorney races in 15 states, which has included 42,637,095 total voter contact attempts and hundreds of election events attended by thousands of people. Candidates who supported reform won in 29 of these races, and they have successfully implemented policies to reform pretrial justice, stop prosecuting low-level charges, and reduce sentencing among many other changes furthering decarceration and racial justice. The election of pro-reform DAs also provide essential political support for statewide reforms and reduce the lobbying power of anti-reform prosecutor associations.听

Prosecutors who support criminal legal reform can be a powerful force for making long-overdue changes to laws that would reduce mass incarceration and racial disparities. A growing number of forward-thinking prosecutors are leading the way in altering this culture and carrying out new approaches.

Prosecutors are the most powerful actors in the criminal legal system. They have almost unlimited power to push for more punishment, often in ways that are largely hidden from public view. This focus on obtaining convictions and securing severe prison sentences 聽 is a major driver of mass incarceration that compounds racial disparities throughout the justice system.

  • Decades of 鈥溾 policies have given prosecutors enormous power over the system in their jurisdiction. District attorneys decide who will be detained in jail before their court date, and who will be sent to state prison. They decide what crimes to charge, and they control the plea deals offered. With 95 percent of those found guilty -- including people who have pleaded guilty to a crime they didn鈥檛 commit to avoid the risk of a longer sentence or because they were under duress 鈥 prosecutors largely control who ends up behind bars.

Prosecutors also constitute a powerful lobby and they often oppose sensible bipartisan reform efforts that would reduce incarceration and create more effective, less costly alternatives to jails and prisons.

In addition to having tremendous legal power, some district attorneys and prosecutors abuse the power of their offices. DAs like New Orleans鈥檚 former DA, Leon Cannizzaro incarcerate the victims of crimes, pressure them to make false statements in order to charge the accused with more serious crimes, and even serve witnesses and victims false subpoenas and then arrest them for not following the demands of the fraudulent documents.

To end the unconstitutional deception and jailing of crime victims and witnesses by the Orleans Parish District Attorney鈥檚 Office, Civil Rights Corps, the 澳门六合开奖记录, and the ACLUof Louisiana filed a lawsuit in federal court against District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and ten assistant district attorneys.

Although district attorneys are mostly elected positions, ACLU70 percent of DAs run unopposed for reelection. But that can change. The ACLUCampaign for Smart Justice is working for prosecutorial reform in the courts, in legislatures, and through .听

Since 2017, ACLUSmart Justice has engaged in 45 district attorney races in 15 states, which has included 42,637,095 total voter contact attempts and hundreds of election events attended by thousands of people. Candidates who supported reform won in 29 of these races, and they have successfully implemented policies to reform pretrial justice, stop prosecuting low-level charges, and reduce sentencing among many other changes furthering decarceration and racial justice. The election of pro-reform DAs also provide essential political support for statewide reforms and reduce the lobbying power of anti-reform prosecutor associations.听

Prosecutors who support criminal legal reform can be a powerful force for making long-overdue changes to laws that would reduce mass incarceration and racial disparities. A growing number of forward-thinking prosecutors are leading the way in altering this culture and carrying out new approaches.

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