Since the brutal murder of George Floyd by cops in Minneapolis, activists across the country have passionately called for police funding. Few similar appeals have been made about prosecutors’ offices.
But American prosecutors are accomplices and should also be repaid. Because the police are only part of a system that devalues and extinguishes the lives of black people.
Prosecutors generally spend most of their time send people to county jails for the most minor offenses, where they suffer from horrible conditions and sadistic guards. Prosecutors are also deciding whether or not cops in their jurisdiction face deterrents from killing unarmed blacks in broad daylight. the the vast majority never accuse the police, which means that killer cops have in some cases made a risk-based decision– and these improvised determinations are often racist.
Despite all this, prosecutors are rarely penalized by their budgets.–except local scandal at the office of the public prosecutor arrive at to have tons of attention. And despite growing recognition from academics, advocates and criminal justice practitioners that the only way to reduce prison status is to give less power to its actors, which is hardly ever invoked as a reason for reducing the budget of a DA.
They would need to consolidate or downsize some units, logically starting with those responding to low impact “crimes”.
The shrinking budgets of the prosecution would force the main local prosecutors to make the difficult decisions that they currently do not have to make, thanks to inflated budgets. They would need to consolidate or downsize some units, logically starting with those responding to low impact “crimes” that do not create physical or mental trauma. Narcotics and other drug units would be prime candidates for reductions, as would crime units. These units are currently supplemental positions in the higher grades of the office, so this is how young prosecutors often learn how to do the job.
As an anonymous senior prosecutor from the South East Explain to the authors of a recent study for the Arizona Law Review:
“When you first start on the crime team, these DWIs are serious stuff. And then you go to the drug crew, and all of a sudden DWI doesn’t seem so serious anymore. And all of a sudden, a few ounces of weed seems like the biggest crime on the planet. Then you do Drug Team for a while, and you realize that there are pounds of cocaine out there, and the weed doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. And then you make the people team, and you see people being robbed at gunpoint. Then drugs don’t seem like a big deal anymore. So, as you move up through the ranks, everything is put into perspective… ”
Instead of young prosecutors diligently brushing their teeth into drug possession and petty theft cases, they could spend more time on domestic violence cases, which are psychosocial more complex than legal, and without doubt underestimated. (They are usually misdemeanors.) A DV focus could be a good preparation for major crimes units, because murders linked to domestic violence are frequent and on the rise.
Despite a rapidly changing situation, for example, the Minneapolis City Council just voted to dismantle its police department, and the Covid-19 pandemic could ride a second wave – prosecutors are always think of little else but by saving their own budgets. Even the best, the most “progressive”.
Philadelphia is currently developing its budget for the next calendar year. Mayor Jim Kenney, a so-called progressive, asked for $ 14 million more for the Philadelphia Police Department. The city council said no, opening its letter to the mayor with the words, “Philadelphia cannot breathe” then to explain that “we too often ask the police to solve problems best dealt with by social workers, health care providers, educators, housing counselors and others”.
In addition, the council wants to cut the budget of Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner. Now Krasner stands in the way, affirming “The city could reverse the progress made in reducing the prison population, as the defendants spend months in jail awaiting trial.
Since taking office in 2018, Krasner has increased the size of his office, but in large part to strengthen the diversion unit. Looking at the last year’s budget document suggests that Krasner use his diversion programs to force Council to give him the budget he wants, despite COVID-19 decreasing the frequency of most crimes. It is also necessary to wonder if Krasner plans to not to fall charges filed against the Black Lives Matter protesters, even though he spent years as a defense lawyer for the movement.
Encouragingly, there is a precedent for councils refusing to give in to threats of prosecution in this area. In 2017, Dane County (Madison) Wisconsin District Attorney Ismael Ozanne was publicly furious that his budget had not kept up with inflation for decades. It threatens stop pursuing lower level business unless the departmental commission gives him money for a dozen new prosecutors. The board scoffed at the request.
Likewise, Philadelphia City Council has good reason to stay the course. There are many minor, non-violent drug law violations that Krasner continues to do force people go through humiliating and punitive diversion courts. This is particularly evident in drug possession cases.
There is a back since the takeover of the Philly Police standard arrest protocols in May? Drop the cases.
Krasner was once rented for saying he would no longer pursue possession of marijuana. Only a year later, a sign of how quickly things were going, Boston elected DA Rachael Rollins, a progressive black woman, on a drug possession decriminalization platform in agreement with from Portugal. Likewise, Krasner has the power, through prosecutorial discretion, to quietly begin dropping all (or, at least, virtually all) non-violent, low-intensity drug cases. This would push the city’s public health department to work to reduce problematic drug use by non-coercive, non-prison means.
If Krasner can’t figure this out himself, there’s no better time for the board to cut back on budget. If he then has to put some prosecutors on leave early in his career, fine. The offices of public defenders Across the country had to do it, and there is still no pay equity between defenders and prosecutors in Philly. There is a backlog of new business since the takeover of the Philly Police standard arrest protocols in May? Drop the cases.
Other prosecutors across the country–most of which are good, much worse that Krasner – should also be the target of calls for budget cuts that would reduce the damage they cause. It is a policy that would meet two urgent needs of these extraordinary times: help the courts survive financially amid the coronavirus upheaval and take concrete action in the Black Lives movement.
Photo by Live Richer on Unsplash