The Power Of 'Tough-On-Crime' Prosecutors And Mass Incarceration In America
How has prosecutorial discretion affected the current state of criminal justice and contributed to mass incarceration in America?
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?
- Emily Bazelon, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, lecturer and senior research scholar in law at Yale Law School and author of "Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration"
- Geary Reamey, professor at St. Mary's University School of Law; consultant and lecturer for law enforcement agencies, the criminal defense bar and the judiciary
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, May 30.