From top to bottom, California’s criminal justice system is infected with racial bias. Communities of color are policed more heavily than white, affluent communities. Inherent racial bias plays a hidden role in how prosecutors make charging decisions, how plea negotiations play out, how judges sentence, and how juries weigh evidence. The consequence of our flawed and unjust system is that communities of color, especially Black families and children, have suffered the worst devastation from our system of mass incarceration.
In the context of historical oppression, we must strive to end overcriminalization and ensure fair treatment of all people. In order to do so, we must proactively acknowledge the harms the criminal justice system has wreaked on communities of color, especially Black communities. In addition, we must proactively work to transform the system to end these racial disparities.
As the gatekeepers into the criminal justice system, DAs play a critical role in the transformation needed to repair, remedy and restore communities of color.
The unchecked power of law enforcement and prosecutors in California has led to devastating consequences. Hundreds of people are injured or even killed every year by law enforcement who used excessive use of force or other unjust and illegal practices. Prosecutors who promote a “win at all costs” mentality and knowingly commit misconduct ruin lives by sending innocent people to prison. These injustices have been allowed to fester, in secret, for far too long.
The job of a district attorney is to seek justice in criminal cases, work to prevent crime, and serve as a leader in the diverse communities they represent. This includes holding law enforcement, as well as their own prosecutors, to their legal and ethical duties. DAs must take officer-involved shootings and accusations of police brutality seriously by proactively reviewing cases, setting up truly independent investigations, and holding police accountable for their actions no matter what (or who).
A district attorney who is committed to equitable law enforcement and prosecutorial accountability will work to improve transparency and accountability in and out of their offices, reward fair conduct and fight misconduct.