Who has had the biggest impact on the growth of our incarceration system? It’s not the judge, the jury, or the legislator. It’s not the police, and it’s certainly not the President. It’s someone else—the prosecutor. Prosecutors are getting more attention now than ever, but many people still don’t know what they do.
Prosecutors don’t just play an important role at trial. It is prosecutors who recommend what bail a judge should set, prosecutors who decide whether a person should face criminal charges and what those charges should be, and prosecutors who control the plea deal process. Perhaps more than anyone else, prosecutors are responsible for our mass incarceration epidemic. On this episode, we’ll explore the impact prosecutors have and take a look at how they wield their power.
We’ll talk about the problems with prosecutors, and their excessive power, negative incentives, and almost total lack accountability. We’ll also talk to John Pfaff, a lawyer, economist, and prosecutor expert, whose book, Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform, examines the power of prosecutors.
For more on prosecutors, check out these resources:
This week on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver coincidentally did a segment on prosecutors. Check it out here.
Here’s an op-ed in the New York Times Josie published last fall on prosecutors that pretend to be reformers but fall short.
The Brooklyn Defenders made this awesome video on the power of prosecutors last year.
Radley Balko always publishes great work on criminal justice and law enforcement, particularly prosecutors. You can find his work at the Washington Post here.
Here’s a good piece on our guest John Pfaff’s book from the Marshall Project.
The Appeal’s other podcast, also called The Appeal, had Josie on for their first episode to talk about prosecutors. Check it out here.
And of course, we publish a lot of pieces on prosecutors at The Appeal. Here are some pieces from just the past few weeks: Amanda Sakuma wrote about a primary challenge to the St. Louis County Attorney who, in 2014, chose not to charge the cop that murdered Michael Brown. (The challenger, Wesley Bell, subsequently won.) George Joseph and Simon Davis-Cohen investigated the Bronx DA’s office and the ways they intentionally drag cases out, improperly burdening defendants; and Jessica Brand and Ethan Brown wrote about the federal prosecutors that charged over 200 inauguration day protesters for rioting, and the history of misconduct in that particular office.
Transcript By Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith III./TheAppeal
Posted by The NON-Conformist