Short Take: The ACLU’s 50% Solution

Press releases are great, especially when they’re all about really important things like reducing the United States prison population by 50%.

As part of its effort to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the U.S. jail and prison population, the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice today announced a new multi-year initiative to overhaul the power wielded by prosecutors.

Overhauls are great, particularly when the overhaul is of power wielded by prosecutors. Who doesn’t want to see that happen, John Pfaff?

The ACLU’s initiative includes a series of high-impact, locally driven prosecutorial reform campaigns in a number of states across the country, beginning in Philadelphia where #VoteSmartJustice is underway to educate voters about the district attorney race in the May 16 primary.

Wow. “High-impact” sounds so, well, high-impact. Seriously, how much more aggressive a phrase can there be? And they’ve already got a hashtag to go with it. This is serious stuff.

“Prosecutors are the most powerful, unaccountable, and least transparent actors in the criminal justice system. This new effort seeks to not only rid our justice system of bad actors who exploit and abuse unchecked powers, but also to elevate and empower a new generation of prosecutors committed to reducing incarceration.

And few words tingle our feelz as much as “empower,” though one might have thought that the problem is that prosecutors are already empowered, which is why we have this problem. So surely the ACLU has some really cool high-impact elevation and empowerment stuff that will “rid our justice system of bad actors who exploit and abuse unchecked powers,” right? RIGHT?!?

Approximately 3,000 prosecutors throughout the country are responsible for making decisions that affect the lives of millions of people. The public knows too little about prosecutors and their impact on communities.

Yes, and…

Together with the ACLU’s state affiliates and on-the-ground advocates, the initiative will follow a three-prong strategy:

  • Litigation: The initiative is hiring new litigators to file ten lawsuits aimed at holding prosecutors accountable and changing their policies and practices.
  • Legislative advocacy: The initiative will serve as a clearinghouse for prosecutor reform legislation, actively supporting the passage of key reform measures in ten states.
  • Voter education: The initiative will engage in nonpartisan efforts in ten prosecutorial elections, conducting voter education about the role that local prosecutors play in fueling mass incarceration.

There you go. Ten lawsuits, ten elections, no waiting. Problem solved. Great strategy, guys. This will fix everything. It’s amazing what you can come up with when you’re flush with an unanticipated $85 million in donations.

25 thoughts on “Short Take: The ACLU’s 50% Solution

    1. SHG Post author

      If you were to click on that donate button and send $85 mil my way, I, too, would bring ten suits. Maybe even 11.

  1. Billy Bob

    Prosecutorial elections will end prosecutorial misconduct. Sounds like a plan! But what about “qualified immunity”? Who is going to get rid of that abomination? The ACLU?

    Can the inevitable “task force” be far behind? We like three-pronged strategies (better than two-pronged ones). They are like the proverbial three-legged stool. [Where the stool collapses if one of the legs is broke.] Well, they’re heading in the right direction anyhow, tilting at Windmills. The question we have is, what took them so long? These “strategies” should have been “employed” yesterday.

    Philadelphia is as good a place to start as any. We suspect however that Joe Blow and Jane Big Hair will be paying no nevermind. As long as they don’t get pinched!

      1. Billy Bob

        You do the thinking; I’ll do the stinking!?! Show The Thinker here–if you can find–the bronze by Rodin, housed at MOMA, near you. The great mid-town museum, patronized by Nelson Rockefeller, one of your great governors there in the, appropriately named, Empire State.

        A nice place to visit,… It’s a great statue!

  2. PseudonymousKid

    Well they didn’t say when they aimed at reducing the prison population by 50%. Looks like a lot of that sweet nectar went to marketing instead.

    “Grassroots,” “on-the-ground,” “local,” “high-impact,” “empower,” should be added to the list of words that don’t mean anything.

  3. Charles

    “Ten lawsuits, ten elections, no waiting.”

    It might not be “high impact,” but at least it’s “in tens.”

  4. Allen

    There’s only one problem, the voters may know exactly what they want in a DA. I think they still haven’t figured out that the voters can get cranky, and do odd things.

    1. SHG Post author

      There is an intrinsic belief by cause orgs that what they want is what everybody wants because they’re right. And they may well be, but even if they’re right, changing the name on the door doesn’t necessarily change much, or much else.

    2. Alchemist

      As Mencken would put it, the voters “know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

      1. Allen

        Or as a corollary, given the last election, “the voters don’t want it, but they’re going to get it good and hard anyway.”

  5. wilbur

    Would it be impolitely fascist to ask who it is they want released? Nothing in the press release about that. Or will they dismissedly wave and say “Details, details”?

      1. Patrick Maupin

        Well, if one assumes arguendo that the ACLU’s handling of this money is better than simply rolling up the bills and setting them alight and that therefore somebody’s going to get released…

        (I’ll wait for you to stop laughing here.)

        … then that may be by far the most important detail for John Q. Public.

        1. SHG Post author

          Eventually, somebody will get released for something, conclusively proving that if they only got more money, they could do so much more.

  6. John Neff

    So the ACLU of Iowa is going to educate the residents of Black Hawk County about the excessive zeal of their county attorney. I don’t think so.

    1. SHG Post author

      They can try. They can put out a press release about trying. They can give themselves awards for trying really hard. Others will sing ballads about their efforts.

  7. E F

    As a resident of Philadelphia, it would be helpful to see this supposed #VoteSmartJustice initiative in action. (I haven’t come across any sign of it, let alone the ridiculousness of hashtag public advocacy around a DA primary…)

    The DA race is a strange one: current DA is under federal indictment, various political causes are looking to dump a bunch of money into the race, and one of the primary candidates is a former star defense lawyer who apparently did a wonderful job of helping the prosecution with his representation: [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

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