The Road to Ending Mass Incarceration Goes Through the DA’s Office

Recently I read an article from The American Prospect titled “The Road to Ending Mass Incarceration Goes Through the DA’s Office.” Within the piece, the author discusses the current state of America’s prison system and how it disproportionately affects black people as a whole. What stood out to me about this article was how the author described the roles that prosecutors play in contributing to mass incarceration. In particular, the author states that “prosecutors bring charges, propose bail, shape plea deals, and specify penalties with little effective resistance from defense attorneys, grand juries, or judges. The district attorney’s office has become the nerve center of the penal state, the place where the ideals of American justice are translated into the realpolitik of penal control.” This stark realization makes it painfully obvious that the current prison system is initially set up for those to fail, rather than to have a chance to succeed.

In my opinion, Mass incarceration came into existence when America abandoned the War on Poverty and chose to treat social problems and wayward lives as problems for police, prosecutors, and prisons. Unless a radical change can be triggered that would bring about a transformation within America’s urban policy, then I find it very difficult to believe that these rising trends of imprisonment will cease.

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One Reply to “The Road to Ending Mass Incarceration Goes Through the DA’s Office”

  1. Inherent problems in the legal system definitely has a huge influence on mass incarceration. Your comment reminded me of a book Dr. King introduced in another class, Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America’s Largest Criminal Court, by Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve. She researches the criminal court in Cook County (Chicago) and pulls out consistencies in racial and structural inequalities throughout the ENTIRE legal process–including both the prosecution and the defense. Personally, I buy Van Cleve’s argument and agree with your conclusion that rising imprisonment will not stop without radial structural change. What I want to point out with this reference to Crook County is that it isn’t only the DA’s office, but every part of the legal and punishment systems in this country. here is a link to Van Cleve’s personal website where there are videos of her talking about her research on MSNBC and CNN.

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