How Progressive can DA’s be?

This article is fire. There is an analogy to the role of prosecutors and moldy bread that provides an excellent jumping off point:

“You have three options when presented with a piece of moldy bread. First, you can eat the bread. Perhaps you think that mold is not that harmful to eat. Second, you can cut around the mold spores, trying to eat just the nonmoldy parts. This is an imprecise process, so sometimes you will eat mold that didn’t get removed. And maybe, in your hunger, you’ll be tempted by bits on the edge with just a little mold — you are hungry, after all. Third, you can refuse to eat any of the bread because, to you, a piece of moldy bread is just not salvageable.”

Eating the moldy bread is akin to maintaining the oppressive status quo of the criminal justice system, Supporting progressive DA’s is akin to cutting around the moldy spots but consuming the remaining bread, and refusing the bread entirely presents the article’s thesis.

While there is always space for a multiplicity of perspectives in a movement, we should stop eating moldy bread. DA’s can only be so progressive when the job requires putting people in cages. Bad apples come from rotten orchards, and the justice system is rotting from top to bottom. (Note: Don’t say the justice system is broken, it’s not. It’s functioning EXACTLY as it was designed to).

Simply put, prosecutors have too much power & discretion. The most powerful actor in a system shouldn’t be the one with the least amount of oversight. Prosecutors decide who to charge, with what, and for how long, however they please. They are playing with people’s lives like its house money. Legislative changes need to reel in this unfettered authority. The power dynamics of plea agreements so incredibly disadvantage defendants, so this seems like a good place to start exploring reform efforts given ~95% of cases end in plea deals. The role of prosecutors would also benefit from being depoliticized. Prosecutors need to be impartial instruments of justice, not politically affiliated actors. Prosecutors would be less beholden to sensationalized demands if they were truly neutral. The adversarial nature of the courtroom could use reconfiguring too. When it’s the People of California VS Joe Smith, there are winners and losers, but the People of California WITH Joe Smith creates an immediacy to the citizenry that recognizes people commit harm, but shouldn’t be further isolated and prone to more harm as a result.

Prosecutors can be progressive all they want, but when you are the most powerful actor in an oppressive system, you aren’t immune from spreading that oppression you seek to dismantle. Confronting and demanding a new system is the real hope for reform.

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