Want a Safer Community? Elect a Progressive Prosecutor

A big new study came out just before the midterm election showing that cities with progressive prosecutors are less likely to experience an increase in homicides than cities that don’t have one.

That’s good news for the health and safety of our communities. But… before we get to that—maybe you’re wondering what a progressive prosecutor or even a plain-old prosecutor is? If so, we’ve got you covered.


What Is a Progressive Prosecutor?

Prosecutors, often also called district attorneys, have a lot of power in our criminal legal system. They:

  • Determine which crime to charge people with, or whether to charge them at all.
  • Advise judges on setting bail and determining prison sentences.
  • Control the plea-bargaining process.
  • Can put individuals in diversion programs, rather than prison.

Broadly speaking, a progressive prosecutor is a prosecutor who

  • Acknowledges the racism built into the criminal legal system.
  • Is committed to enacting reforms that address the racist system of mass incarceration.
  • Works to find equitable ways to reduce harm and promote public health and safety.

Larry Krasner was one of the first to describe himself as a progressive prosecutor when he successfully ran for district attorney in Philadelphia in 2017. Many have proudly taken up that label since, including Sarah George, a progressive prosecutor here in Chittenden County, Vermont’s most populous county.

Focused on Keeping People Safe

Progressive prosecutors are being talked about so much now because, for decades, pretty much the only way to get elected as a prosecutor was to run on a “tough on crime/lock them up” platform.

That platform created and perpetuates a failed and racist system of mass incarceration, which has decimated Black and Brown communities while doing nothing to keep people safe.

Progressive prosecutors reject that approach. They instead support investing in people and community-based solutions. They work to end mass incarceration and find equitable ways to reduce harm and promote public health and safety.

In that way, they are aligned with the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that our criminal legal system must be rebuilt from the ground up.

Voters Weren't Fooled

Progressive prosecutors have had a lot of success at the ballot box over recent years, but that has led to a backlash from the old, white, “lock them up” crowd. During the recent midterm elections, a slate of candidates, all Republicans, spent a combined $50+ million on ominous, misleading ads trying to scare voters into thinking that electing progressive prosecutors will lead to more crime and violence.

It didn’t work. Progressives won races all over the country, even in deep red states. (Here in Vermont, Sarah George defeated a candidate with a more “tough on crime” approach in the Democratic primary, securing another term in office.)

Facts Matter

As if to debunk those fear-mongering, crime-based campaigns in real time, a comprehensive study led by researchers at the University of Toronto (in partnership with Rutgers University, Temple University, Loyola University of Chicago, and University of Missouri, St. Louis) came out in October.

  • It found that, during the study period (2015 to 2019), major US cities with progressive prosecutors were less likely to experience an increase in homicides (and experienced smaller increases in homicides overall) than jurisdictions without progressive prosecutors.
  • The study also took a look at homicide rates in 23 cities and theft rates in 24 cities from 2018 to 2021 and determined that progressive prosecutors had nothing to do with any increases in those rates over that time period.
  • They reached the same conclusion when studying homicide rates before and after progressive prosecutors were elected in Chicago, LA, and Philadelphia.

Working for a More Just System of Public Safety

The truth is that violent crime has increased in many parts of the country over the past few years. (Although, recent data does suggest that it’s starting to come back down.) It’s a real problem that has had a particularly devastating impact on communities of color.

The root causes are complex. One thing we know for certain is that we can’t arrest and incarcerate our way out of the problem. In fact, studies have shown that spending more on policing, for example, does nothing to reduce crime. Progressive prosecutors understand that and are working to find real, sustainable, and just solutions to ensure the health and safety of the people they serve.

Support Progressive Prosecutors!

Many Republican candidates ran on lies about crime—and it didn’t work. In fact, voters have elected more progressive prosecutors than ever before.

Let’s keep rejecting attempts to sow fear in our communities—and keep electing more progressive prosecutors who invest in community-based solutions!

Learn more about how progressive prosecutors are keeping our communities safe.