The next Prosecuting Attorney must commit to reducing the number of people sent to jail and prison.
Nine out of every 10 people in Missouri’s correctional system are in need of drug abuse treatment. Services for the mentally ill, public education, and diversion programs are a better way to address public safety than imprisoning more people. It is time we change how we approach justice.
The Prosecuting Attorney is the gatekeeper to our criminal justice system. The Prosecuting Attorney decides whether someone who is living with mental illness or a drug addiction will get access to treatment and rehabilitation, or whether they will instead be charged with a crime that is likely to result in jail time. The next Prosecuting Attorney must expand use of alternative treatment and jail diversion. By targeting the root cause leading to a crime, effective diversion programs can make Missouri safer and our justice system fairer for all.
The next Prosecuting Attorney should use their power and influence to communicate how we need to fix the money bail system that harms so many people in our community. In St. Louis County, more than 33 percent of the people behind bars are there for nonviolent offenses. Many of these people sit in jail awaiting trial simply because they don’t have the money for bail. This is true across our state and it disproportionately harms people of color and causes people to lose jobs, housing, cars, medical care, and even custody of their children because they are poor. It’s an injustice.
The next Prosecuting Attorney should eliminate requests for money bail. They should recommend, whenever possible, release of defendants without financial conditions unless that person is a flight risk or danger to the community.
The Prosecuting Attorney helped lead us into a mass incarceration crisis, and we need them to help lead us out of it. The next Prosecuting Attorney must commit to setting specific, measurable goals to reduce the number of people in jail and prison during their next term. Then, they must take action to achieve them.
Across Missouri there are too many people of color caught up in the criminal justice system.
Our next Prosecuting Attorney must commit to requiring that prosecutors participate in implicit bias training. They must also track and work to eliminate racial disparities in decisions made by the prosecutor’s office, including disparities in charging decisions, bail recommendations, diversionary program placements, and plea bargains.
Typically, little information beyond conviction rates is gathered or made public by Prosecuting Attorney’s office. This lack of transparency prevents the use of data as a tool to combat racial bias. Transparent practices and outcomes improve decision making and allow the public to hold the elected Prosecuting Attorney accountable to the community.
The next Prosecuting Attorney must pledge to collect and regularly post data sorted by race and gender on felony and misdemeanor charging decisions, convictions, and the number of people sent to diversion programs.
The next Prosecuting Attorney must commit to regularly and meaningfully engaging with their community about their public safety and criminal justice concerns.
The election is on November 6, 2018. Find out if you are registered to vote.
Prosecuting Attorneys have tremendous power and, traditionally, very little oversight or accountability. Prosecuting Attorneys have the power to impact the lives of millions of people. If someone is accused of committing a crime, it is not the police, but the Prosecuting Attorney, who has the power. Prosecuting Attorneys decide who deserves to go to jail, who gets their charges dismissed, and who will instead be sent to a diversion program.
The ACLU is strictly a nonpartisan organization. We take no position on any of the candidates. Our goal is to educate voters about where the candidates running for Prosecuting Attorney stand on critical issues related to criminal justice.
We’re getting involved in elections because the stakes are incredibly high for civil rights and civil liberties issues in America and in Missouri. The ACLU of Missouri aims to educate voters about the civil liberties and civil rights records of Prosecuting Attorney candidates and show that there is a civil liberty voter who factors those records into how they vote.
The ACLU will let civil rights and civil liberties issues drive its electoral work. The ACLU of Missouri is not doing electoral work to affect the balance of political power, but to drive concrete policy outcomes that matter for people’s lives. We choose to engage in electoral races where important civil rights and civil liberties issues are at stake. And we aim to establish a mandate for politicians to enact policies that expand rights and freedoms for all.
The ACLU of Missouri does not endorse or oppose any candidate for office. Our goal is to promote voter education and voter participation.
ACLU of Missouri, Organization for Black Struggle, NAACP, Missouri Faith Voices, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Black Lives Matter and Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression.