District attorneys have exceptional powers and are vested with an enormous amount of authority within the criminal legal system. They not only determine the offenses with which a person is charged, but also play a central role in deciding whether a person is detained or released pretrial, and ultimately convicted. District attorneys also make recommendations on sentences and the application of enhancements based on aggravating factors or a person’s prior criminal history. Their decision-making is a key driver of racially inequitable incarceration, and their policies and practices shape the criminal legal landscape across our state. Research indicates that people of color, especially Blacks, face greater odds of being criminalized by prosecutors compared to Whites. They are more likely to be charged with harsher offenses for comparable conduct, more likely to be convicted, and subject to harsher sentences. In light of these issues, Reimagine Justice & Safety works to improve prosecutorial accountability and prevent inequitable outcomes.
District attorneys are not required to publicly report data on most of the critical decisions they make despite wielding extraordinary power and being elected officials. This leaves Californians without critical tools to hold their district attorneys accountable, and prevents lawmakers from having key information to inform safety solutions. To address this issue, Reimagine Justice & Safety collaborates with community partners to improve prosecutorial transparency.
Equitable and Common Sense Charging Policies
District attorney charging decisions should be equitable and advance our long-term, collective wellbeing. However, research shows that district attorneys disproportionately charge people of color with harsher offenses than Whites for similar conduct, unnecessarily over-charge with severe offenses that entail lengthy sentences, and fail to sufficiently divert people from incarceration to care. This hinders community safety because each added year of incarceration results in a four to seven percent increase in post-release criminal activity, and approximately 95 percent of incarcerated people are eventually released. Therefore, in collaboration with community partners, Reimagine Justice & Safety works to ensure that district attorneys adopt equitable and common sense charging policies.