Teens and Adults at the Mercy of Prosecutors

The practice of holding someone accountable for their negative behavior lies at the heart of the criminal justice system. When an individual appears in court to explain, defend, or deny what caused them to be arrested, they face a prosecutor whose job it is to prove they are guilty and recommend punishment. The essence of this process is accountability. This all makes sense until one realizes that accountability only goes one way. That prosecutor is the most powerful player is this setting. They can, and do, recommend sentences far beyond the needs of the defendant or the objective of public safety. Such morally suspect harsh sentences are only possible because the prosecutor is not held accountable. His/her excessive sentences transfer the cost of care of the convicted from the county to the state. One can be absolutely sure that if the county were held responsible for even half the cost of sentences pushed by prosecutors, there would be far fewer, and shorter prison sentences. In fact, it could be argued that if the county had to pay for the entire cost of incarceration, alternatives to prison would multiply and much greater emphasis would be placed on prevention and insuring that every policy, and law, in place actually promotes positive change and public safety.
Accountability should be expected, perhaps even mandated, from all participants in the justice system.

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