Volume 60

Preface: New Directions in Prosecutorial Reform

by Miriam Aroni Krinsky, Justin Murray, and Maybell Romero

This Preface, which introduces the American Criminal Law Review’s Symposium Issue on Reform-Minded Prosecution, begins by describing the power that prosecutors hold in the criminal legal system, which has historically gone unchecked and unquestioned. As mass incarceration, police violence, and wrongful convictions began to permeate the public consciousness, many communities focused their attention on the critical role of their local elected prosecutor and elected leaders who promised to do the job differently. Reform-minded prosecutors have enjoyed remarkable electoral successes over the past decade such that close to twenty percent of the U.S. population now resides in a jurisdiction with a reform-minded District Attorney (DA). The Preface goes on to discuss some of the groundbreaking accomplishments of these newly elected DAs, including establishing conviction integrity and sentence review units; ending prosecution of certain low-level offenses; holding law enforcement accountable; changing the treatment of young people in the criminal legal system; and more. Despite these promising initiatives, the Preface concludes with a discussion of the strong pushback, criticism, and opposition DAs have experienced. The DAs’ use of their discretion has been a focal point of many attacks and has even led to attempts at supersession from state-level officials who oppose the reform efforts. Nevertheless, reform-minded prosecutors continue to advocate for the needs of their communities and to inspire those who believe in the possibility of a fair and just criminal legal system.

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