“Progressive prosecutors” are taking over District Attorney’s Offices across the nation with a mandate to reform the criminal justice system from the inside. Emily Bazelon’s new book, Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration, chronicles this potentially transformative moment in American criminal justice.
This Essay highlights the importance of Charged to modern criminal justice debates and leverages its concrete framing to offer a generally applicable theory of prosecutor-driven criminal justice reform. The theory seeks to reconcile reformers’ newfound embrace of prosecutorial discretion with long-standing worries, both inside and outside the academy, about the dangerous accumulation of prosecutorial power. It also offers the potential to broaden the reform movement’s appeal beyond progressive jurisdictions.