Volume 60

Progressive Prosecutors: Winning the Hearts and Minds of Line Prosecutors

by Laurie L. Levenson

The progressive prosecutor movement offers many critical proposals to reform our criminal justice system. However, it has not been able to fully accomplish its goals in many jurisdictions because the newly elected prosecutors have faced pushback, not just from hardline opponents to their reforms, but from the deputy prosecutors in their own offices. For there to be real change in prosecutors’ offices, progressive prosecutors must win the hearts and minds of their own staff. Progressive prosecution is a cultural change that requires working with, not against, the rank and file of prosecution offices. To accomplish this, it is not enough that new directives are issued. Prosecutors must engage all their stakeholders, especially the line prosecutors who will be expected to implement the new directives. This requires educating the line prosecutors about the reasons reforms are needed, listening to their concerns, being open to modifying new policies depending on the operations and laws of the jurisdiction, and finding common ground with groups that have not yet joined the progressive prosecutors’ movement. To meet this challenge, prosecutors would be well advised to learn how the business world successfully navigates onboarding new leadership teams.

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