Prosecutors’ associations wield legislative influence, hindering reforms.
In April, journalist Josie Duffy Rice highlighted the outsized influence that prosecutors’ associations nationwide have on criminal justice legislation—and how they are using that power to oppose—and sometimes thwart—bipartisan-supported criminal justice reform legislation.
- Scott McNamara, the Oneida County, New York, District Attorney and president of the District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York, “strongly advised” against supporting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s flagship criminal justice reform package, failed legislation that would have limited civil asset forfeiture, increased discovery, and reduced the use of money bail.
- The Alabama District Attorneys Association worked to defeat a widely supported civil asset forfeiture reform bill.
- The California District Attorneys Association supported the “Keep California Safe” initiative. The measure, which failed to gather enough support to make it to the ballot, would have limited Proposition 47, which reduced some nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors, and Proposition 57, which increased parole opportunities for people convicted of nonviolent felonies and gave judges—rather than prosecutors—authority to decide whether to try juveniles as adults.
- The Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council has been a consistent proponent of mandatory minimums and harsher sentences. Maricopa County (Phoenix) Attorney Bill Montgomery was instrumental in amending HB 2312, one of the bills in a package of legislation developed to alter factors the court must consider when determining whether to set aside a conviction, making this limited avenue of relief even more difficult.
- The Nebraska County Attorneys Association worked in April to kill legislation that would have required increased transparency when prosecutors use individuals who are incarcerated as informants.
- The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association lobbied against SB 942, which would have made people with life sentences eligible for parole after 15 years, calling the bill a “continual erosion of the will to hold people accountable for the crimes they commit." It died in the Senate Judiciary Committee this year, having never reached a vote. In November, Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner left the association, stating that it represents “the voice of the past” and is, in part, responsible for the growth in the state’s prison population.