Boston Globe: “Less Power For Prosecutors

The Boston Globe cites Fordham professor John Pfaff’s research, discussed in a previous blog, to call fro a reduction on prosecutorial power to solve the problem of mass incarceration. In an editorial titled “Why we should free violent criminals,” the Globe staff cites Pfaff’s upcoming book,  Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform: “We put all of our attention — almost all of our attention — on things that aren’t nearly as important as the things we ignore.” Pfaff’s research shows that the war on drugs is not the primary driver of  America’s huge prison growth over the last several decades; less than 20 percent of the country’s 1.5 million prisoners are serving time for such offenses. Free them all tomorrow, and the United States would still have the largest prison population in the world — larger than Russia, Mexico, and Iran combined. Nor are mandatory minimums the biggest problem. The issue is prosecutors becoming more and more aggressive about seeking jail time. In the mid-’90s, prosecutors filed felony charges against about one in three arrestees. By 2008, it was more like two in three. The push to file more felony charges, according to Pfaff, is the single most important factor in the growth in prison admissions since crime started dropping in the early-’90s.


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