The Power Of 'Tough-On-Crime' Prosecutors And Mass Incarceration In America | Texas Public Radio

The Power Of 'Tough-On-Crime' Prosecutors And Mass Incarceration In America

May 29, 2019

How has prosecutorial discretion affected the current state of criminal justice and contributed to mass incarceration in America?

There are 2.2 million people living behind bars in the United States. Texas ranks near the top of the list for states with the highest incarceration rates.

If the justice system is supposed to be a fair fight between equal adversaries, something has gone wrong. The cash bail system, underfunded and overwhelmed public defenders and prosecutorial discretion are just a few factors that have led to a 500 percent increase in the country's incarcerated population over the last 40 years.

A major contributor to such a high number of people in U.S. prisons and jails is the will and power of prosecutors. Much of the time it is they who largely control case outcomes, not judges.

The mostly unchecked power of the prosecutor means they answer to almost no one and make big decisions like determining bail amounts and plea bargains. They can do great harm as well as good.

What is prosecutorial discretion and how does it work? How can American prosecution heal itself, reduce incarceration and increase fairness in the justice system?

Guests:

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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, May 30.