In 2022, voters defied expectations of a backlash against criminal justice reform. Progressives lost as San Francisco recalled its district attorney but added to the ranks of officials intent on reducing incarceration and abandoning the punitive status quo on criminal justice, in Pennsylvania, California and Minnesota elections
Many states hold their local elections on odd-numbered years. These local and state offices hold most of the discretion to shape incarceration and policing, Bolts reports.
District attorneys and sheriffs decide which cases to prosecute and with what severity, exercise control over jail conditions, and choose how they partner with federal immigration enforcement.
There are nearly 500 elections for prosecutors and sheriffs scheduled for 2023. The first filing deadlines are coming upsoon.
These elections are largely concentrated in Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, with just a few in Florida, New Jersey, and Washington State.
Other local offices that shape criminal punishment and policing are also on the ballot next year, including three governorships, at least two supreme court justices in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and hundreds of state lawmakers, local judges, and mayors.
Key contests include prosecutor races in New York City and upstate New York, Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia suburbs, and Northern Virginia, as well as mayoral races in Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and across Texas. Sheriff races across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia may draw scrutiny to immigration and detention conditions.
Bolts discusses six major questions the elections may involve:
--Can reform-minded prosecutor candidates hold their ground in Virginia and make inroads elsewhere?
--Will sheriffs and other jail official face accountability?
--Will immigrant-rights advocates curtail local collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement?
--Will mayors be interested in reforming policing?
--Will justice reform initiatives survive elections in the South?
--How will judicial elections affect criminal punishment in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin?