By Liz Posner / AlterNet
District attorneys can play a major role in reducing (or amplifying) race-based incarceration in America’s largest cities. Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King announced in February that he is launching a political action committee to help elect reform-minded DA candidates and draw national attention to the issue. “No position in America, no single individual has a bigger impact on the criminal justice system—including police brutality, but the whole crisis of mass incarceration in general—than your local district attorney,” King said. “They are the gatekeepers of America’s justice system.”
In the past several years, progressive newcomers have unseated conservative old-guard incumbents in places like Caddo Parish, Louisiana, Philadelphia, Houston, Denver, and Jacksonville, to great effect.
The importance of diversifying the office of district attorney cannot be overstated. Across the country, 95 percent of district attorneys are white, and only 1 percent are women of color. Justice reform experts argue that the lack of representation for communities that are over-policed, over-arrested and over-charged is a major factor in the mass incarceration of people of color. Across the U.S., grassroots efforts are underway to reshape the justice system by choosing new progressive leaders who reflect the communities they serve. [Read more…]