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Realizing Reform: Understanding the criminal justice reform movement

A movement has taken hold across the nation, with approximately 20 percent of all Americans living in a jurisdiction with a reform-minded prosecutor.

These leaders were chosen by voters who understand we have work to do to improve safety and justice in our communities. Over the course of the next several months, this column – Realizing Reform – will provide a behind the scenes look at these modern prosecutors, at what’s happening in Los Angeles and around the country, and perhaps most importantly – why.

Why is this movement gaining so much traction, and with criminal justice reform polling so favorably across the political spectrum, why are there efforts to recall reformers like Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón?

Our experts will provide an overview of the history and how we got here, we will tackle emotional and complex issues from the incarceration of kids to the trauma experienced by victims of crime.  We will look at how modern prosecutors are on the frontlines of our nation’s discourse on race, what their abilities are to reduce or exacerbate homelessness, and how District Attorneys are leading the fight to protect a women’s right to choose.

Above all, we’ll explore the policies and the politics of a movement that has major implications for safety and justice in our communities, and the type of society we want to live in.  California is spending billions of dollars on a system that fails far more often than it succeeds, all while disproportionately impacting communities of color.  Indeed, it’s often said that if mass incarceration worked, the United States would be the safest place on earth – and yet we are far from it.

Can we do better? We think so. The solutions to these problems are complex, and the road to change is not a straight line. But continuing to rely on failed policies that have left us short of our goal of safety and justice cannot be the solution.

In the wake of the recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and a similar effort to recall District Attorney George Gascón in Los Angeles, voters are being asked to make big decisions on criminal justice.  Whether enough signatures are gathered or not, you can be sure that misinformation will continue to pose as grave a threat to our democracy as it does to criminal justice reform. This column will be a place to explore the big themes and uncover the truth so that we can make informed decisions that reflect our values.

As we celebrate our nation’s independence with our families this weekend, take a moment to consider how dependent we’ve become on a system that fails more often than it succeeds. Weigh how little we do to stop crime and victimization before it happens, with the extent of the responses that show up after harm has already occurred.

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