Backlash against progressive prosecutors hardly misguided

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen some real problems with prosecutors. Progressive prosecutors, to be specific.

You see, these crusaders sweep into office and then decide they’re not going to prosecute certain crimes. In and of itself, I don’t have a huge problem with this on principle. I’m not a big fan of “victimless crimes,” for example. Had the prosecutors in question stepped in and said they weren’t going to sweat crimes lacking an actual victim, I might have cheered.

But that’s not what they did. Instead, they opted to not prosecute people for crimes like theft, and it’s created problems.

However, now we’re being told that the criticisms of these prosecutors are misguided

Progressive prosecutors, including Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, are facing a backlash in several cities. Gascon’s counterpart in San Francisco, Chesa Boudin, is even facing a recall election. And there’s an effort to recall Gascon as well – for doing exactly what he said he would do.

Let’s not pretend that our criminal justice system has not been badly broken for a long time. It may work satisfactorily for people with financial resources, but for everyone else, an encounter with law enforcement or a district attorney is potentially devastating.

Let’s also not pretend that there is legitimacy to the false choice between mass incarceration, with an indifference to innocence and criminal impunity, and the rise in violent crime that Americans have witnessed in recent years.

Except, our system doesn’t have an indifference to innocence. We have a jury trial system that provides a standard of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We also provide people with an attorney if they can’t afford one themselves. The presumption is that people are innocent until the evidence convinced 12 ordinary people that they are, indeed, guilty.

Do they always get it right? No, but we also have systems in place for correcting mistakes like that.

As for whether or not the refusal to prosecute criminals has anything to do with how violent crime as surged since they took office, well, to claim it’s a false choice requires one to dismiss the correlation completely out of hand.

Yet even if that correlation has no causation–and, to be fair, that’s not unusual by any means–it must be remembered that there’s more to lawlessness than violent crime.

We’ve seen how brazen some people are with their shoplifting in cities with these kinds of prosecutors. It’s creating real problems for the businesses that serve these communities; enough so that many are pulling up stakes and leaving, which creates problems for the communities themselves.

“But the system is broken!”

Is it, though?

People keep making this claim, but the only evidence they provide are raw demographics of prison populations or things of that sort. They don’t show evidence that white offenders aren’t being prosecuted at all or necessarily even offered lighter sentences.

It sounds to me like the system that’s broken isn’t the legal system so much as the systems that funnel people toward either a productive life or a criminal one.

After all, The Innocence Project, which works to overturn false convictions, estimates that between four and six percent of people in prison are falsely convicted. Now, we should most definitely work to reduce that number, to say the least.

However, it also means that at least 94 percent of those in prison actually belong there.

The outrage toward progressive prosecutors is because their response to a relatively minor problem is to simply ignore crime in general. So no, it’s not misguided and our system isn’t broken. Not that way, at least.

But some people have their heads in the sand and can’t acknowledge that what they thought would be a good idea turned out to be a trainwreck.