From New York to Los Angeles to Philadelphia, so-called “progressive prosecutors”—those who broadly favor non-prosecution—have changed the policies, methods, and culture of district attorney’s offices. Under their watch, misdemeanors, particularly quality-of-life crimes, have been excluded from prosecution, and pretrial diversion has been used more often and for a greater variety of crimes, while pretrial detention has been pursued less aggressively.
These changes, many argue, are increasing rates of re-offense, and creating a permissive criminal environment and general sense of street disorder. These policies also help to breed cynicism about the utility of active policing in the first place—after all, what good does it do to arrest offenders who will likely just be back out on the streets in a matter of hours?
But there is increasing pushback against these offender-oriented policies. Police departments have attempted to bypass local prosecutors by pushing more cases to the federal courts. In Los Angeles, line prosecutors have filed suit against DA George Gascón, challenging the constitutionality and legality of progressive initiatives. Elsewhere, upcoming elections have become referendums on incumbent district attorneys. With violent crime rates rising, will progressive policies continue to expand, covering even more serious offenses, or has the single-minded focus on decreasing incarceration run its course? To discuss the realities and the outlook, we are honored to have Andrew McCarthy, National Review columnist and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York; William McSwain, former U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; and Terence Monahan, former Chief of Department for the New York City Police Department.