Governors Should Embrace—Not Hinder—Reform-Minded Prosecutors

Marilyn Mosby Full
State's Attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby
Reform-minded local prosecutors should have the power to pursue the interests of those who elected them..

Decades of these policies failed our communities and our nation. From 1970 onward, decisions made to sharply increase the use of jail and prison throughout the country—and to impose harsher sentences for many criminal convictions—are now commonly referred to as the era of mass incarceration. Today, nearly 2.3 million people are behind bars.

Mass incarceration has had the biggest impact on the most vulnerable populations: people who are poor, especially people of color; and those with histories of substance use, mental health disorders, or other behavioral health problems. For many people, incarceration—even for a short period—can destabilize their health and economic well-being, jeopardize their bonds with family and community, and increase their chances of future justice system involvement.

The efforts by some political leaders to fight against reform are especially disheartening when we know that the racial disparities in the criminal justice system are real, with a black person in this country 3.6 times more likely to be incarcerated in jail than a white person. As Bridgeford eloquently wrote, rather than taking power from the State’s Attorney chosen by the people of Baltimore, Governor Hogan should work with the city and its leaders to address systemic racism, social and economic instability, and a historic divestment in resources. It is time to invest in proven solutions—such as restorative justice and public health approaches to disrupting violence—that promote accountability and collaboration, rather than degradation and isolation.

Bridgeford knows firsthand the incredible sorrow of loss from gun violence: she has experienced the deaths of several family members and friends. But she also knows the hope and potential of the community she serves through her work to disrupt violence. Her voice is a forceful reminder that when those who have been most affected by the failures of our criminal legal system speak, we should listen. And that reform-minded local prosecutors should have the power to pursue the interests of those who elected them.