Prosecutors are the most powerful single actors in the criminal justice system.
Every day, they make decisions that directly impact our communities—from whether to charge a crime as a misdemeanor or felony to whether to request bail. Collectively, no decisions fuel mass incarceration and the mass criminalization of Black communities more than the decisions of prosecutors.
Historically, prosecutors have been incentivized to drive up conviction rates, which advances their career more than any other factor. Despite the incredible discretion with which prosecutors operate, they operate with minimal transparency and accountability, too often flying under the radar leaving constituents unknowledgeable about who they are and what they do. Just as people are often unaware of the immense power that prosecutors hold, they also do not realize that the position is an elected one.
The ability for prosecutors to escape public scrutiny often allows them to run in uncontested elections that lack diversity and are absent of challengers who will hold their feet to the fire and make them accountable to the growing community of advocates that demand change. In fact, a 2014 study found that 95% of prosecutors were white, meaning that these elected officials who make crucial decisioons that impact the lives of individuals and families for years, often do not reflect the communities over which they govern. The prosecutor accountability movement is urgent because the need to create conditions for Black communities to truly thrive cannot wait.
Though the President, Congress, the Supreme Court and Governors play an important role, truly eliminating racism in the criminal justice system requires holding local decision makers accountable, especially our local prosecutors.
Nearly 2.2 million people in the U.S. are locked up by prosecutors in prisons and jails.
This is the highest incarceration rate in the world.