The Power of Prosecutors

What is a District Attorney?

A District Attorney (DA) is the chief prosecutor for a local government area in Alabama. DAs are responsible for presenting cases, directing criminal investigations, and setting policy that influences how the system works in a particular county.

DAs have used their power to pack jails and prisons. And it has taken decades, billions of dollars, and thousands of laws to turn the United States into the largest incarcerator in the world. But did you know that prosecutors also have the power to dismantle this machine — even without changing a single law?

 

Charging

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Once you’ve been arrested for an alleged criminal activity, DAs can decide to charge or not charge someone.

Jefferson County’s next DA can commit to:

  • Stop prosecuting for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana and for drug paraphernalia. Marijuana convictions disproportionately hurt communities of color, and uses up time and resources that could be spent on more serious crimes.

  • Decline to issue warrants for failure to appear to court until after checking that a person was properly notified and was not incarcerated on their court date.


Bail

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If you’re charged with a crime, DAs can decide to advocate for or against release while you are waiting for trial.

Jefferson County’s next DA can commit to:

  • Adopt a no-cash bail policy for misdemeanor offenses. More than 70 percent of people in Alabama county jails had not been convicted of a crime. The cash bail system unfairly punishes people who don’t have money for the precise reason that they don’t have money. Our justice system should not depend on how much money a person has.


Pleas and Sentencing

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The DA acts as a gatekeeper for diversion programs, which keep people out of prison, they can advocate for sentence length, and they can influence the amount of fines and fees a person has to pay. DAs can decide to seek as little or as much prison time as possible.

Jefferson County’s next DA can commit to:

  • DIVERSION - Apply an objective standard to determine eligibility for diversion programs so that no one is denied based on ability to pay. People with money can pay $650-1500 to stay out of prison and, if they complete the program successfully, can have their charges dismissed. Making justice dependent on whether someone can pay for it is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

  • FINES AND FEES - Disclose revenue from all sources on an annual basis, avoid revenue streams through the court system, and advocate for the elimination of the current court debt system. Excessive fines and fees saddle people with debt that is difficult to pay off. Falling behind may mean additional fines for late payments or a warrant for arrest, creating a cycle that keeps people trapped in the system.


Racial Disparities

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Racial disparities plague our country’s criminal justice system. In 2015, although Black people made up only 44.1% of Jefferson County’s population, they accounted for nearly 70% of the jail population. But decarcerating Alabama will not on its own reduce racial disparities in the prison system. DAs can decide to support the communities they represent by being transparent and accountable.

Jefferson County’s next DA can commit to:

  • Make a plan to gather and share race-based data. With data on all charging, bail, sentencing, and plea bargaining recommendations made by the office, with demographic information included, we can better understand and identify what is causing the disparities and implement a plan to address it.