New Breed of Prosecutors Make Progressive Changes

Many young prosecutors are avoiding the death penalty, talking rehabilitation as much as punishment, and often refusing to charge people for minor offenses. While their numbers are small, they are taking over DA offices at a crucial moment as many states are moving away from the strict law-and-order approaches of the past.

Mark Gonzalez, the new district attorney in Nueces County, Tx., is making what the Christian Science Monitor calls a raft of progressive changes, such as helping young offenders go to trade school instead of to prison. Gonzalez is part of a new breed of prosecutor around the U.S. “with a reform-minded approach that sounds more Clarence Darrow than Clarence Thomas,” the Monitor says. Gonzalez says, “I think every prosecutor should have in the back of their minds and in their hearts that everyone is not guilty until I prove my case.”

From Texas to Florida to Illinois, many of these young prosecutors are eschewing the death penalty, talking rehabilitation as much as punishment, and often refusing to charge people for minor offenses. While their numbers are small, they are taking over DA offices at a crucial moment. Faced with crowded prisons and the high financial and social costs of incarceration, many states have been moving away from the strict law-and-order approaches of the past. In Washington, D.C., the tone is just the opposite. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, backed by President Trump, wants to revive stiff sentences for drug offenders and tougher laws.  “It does seem to be a new and significant phenomenon,” says Stanford law Prof. David Alan Sklansky of new prosecutors. “It’s rare to see so many races where the district attorney is challenged, where they lose, and where they lost to candidates calling not for harsher approaches, but for more balanced and thoughtful, more restrained, more progressive approaches to punishment.”

from https://thecrimereport.org