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Progressive Prosecutors Accuse States Of Undermining Democracy

The progressive prosecutor movement is calling attention to increasing attacks by state officials who want to remove reform-minded prosecutors, said panelists in a webinar hosted by The Wren Collective. Law Prof. John Pfaff of Fordham University said the actions by states affect every level of criminal justice reform efforts. Pfaff said city and county officials are not shielded from interference by the state. “There's very little that counties and cities have to protect them," Pfaff said. An example of state action is the fact that 46 states have laws that say cities cannot pass gun restrictions tougher than the state's. State gun laws tend to be weaker than what some cities prefer. Pfaff blames the divide on disagreements between Democrat and Republican officials on how to deal with crime.

Journalist Akela Lacey of The Intercept said some states have sought to recall prosecutors and enact laws to preempt their actions. State officials argue that they are "protecting the people” against crime and encouraging public safety. Panelists argued that the state interventions have no beneficial impact on public safety. Washington, D.C., a jurisdiction under Congressional control, was stopped this year from revising its criminal code. Congress and the President decided to stop the revisions, which members characterized as an attempt to “overhaul the whole criminal legal system.” Despite criticism from some members of Congress, the proposed changes would have increased penalties for the most serious crimes, said Bethany Young of The Wren Collective said. She said some members of Congress spread misinformation about the proposed reform, saying that it would allow criminals to run wild in order to use “D.C. as a pawn in their political campaigns” and override “the wills of D.C.’s residents and voters.”

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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