Attorney General William Barr promotes outmoded policies that increase crime and make Americans less safe, according to dozens of elected progressive prosecutors who joined together in order to call out President Donald Trump’s man at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
In an open letter released Thursday morning, 40 prosecutors representing most major towns and cities across the country aimed to flip the script on Barr in light of his recent comments attacking many of those same district attorneys (DAs) over pro-reform efforts and widespread opposition to the federal government’s brutal immigration crackdowns.
“We are elected prosecutors from states, counties and cities—large and small—who spend every day trying to make our communities safer and healthier,” the letter begins. “We hold our jobs because our communities put us in them after we promised a different and smarter approach to justice, one grounded in evidence-based policies that lift people up while prioritizing the cases that cause real harm.”
”We know that past decades of promoting a ‘war on drugs’ or sending people to prisons and jails because of poverty or unpaid fees has destroyed lives and diverted limited resources away from serious crimes that truly impact communities. We’ve read the research, and we believe in following the evidence. We don’t resort to fear, we deal in facts.”
The prosecutors then called out Barr directly over the Roger Stone sentencing memo controversy:
Critics such as Attorney General William Barr seek to bring us back to a time when crime was high, success was measured by how harsh the punishment was, and a fear-driven narrative prevailed. This is the same Attorney General who in the span of 24 hours attacked reform-minded, elected District Attorneys for being soft on crime, while demanding his own federal prosecutors lighten the punishment for an ally of his boss. He touts the importance of the rule of law, yet undermines it in the same breath.
“We will not go back to the fear-driven ‘tough on crime’ era,” the open letter continues. “We will not adhere to policies that failed to make our communities safe and punished poverty, mental illness or addiction—policies that filled prison beds and made our country an international outlier in our rate of incarceration.”
The group also took another none-too-veiled swipe at Barr over his recent intervention on Trump’s behalf in the Stone case.
“We will not cater to the powerful and wealthy while plundering the poor and communities of color,” the letter reads. “We will continue to implement solutions that are proven, focus our resources on solving serious crimes, and work to reduce our nation’s bloated incarceration system. We will uphold the rule of law, and we will apply it fairly.”
“In recent years, we’ve seen a growing number of elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders turn away from ‘tough on crime’ policies—acknowledging they have done little more than fuel mass incarceration and fracture trust in our justice system,” said Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky in a press release announcing the open letter. “These criminal justice leaders are choosing a new pathway that is data-driven and gaining bipartisan support, discrediting AG Barr’s fear-driven narrative not through words, but through the outcomes of smarter justice approaches that reduce incarceration and restore communities rather than tear them down.”
The harsh rejoinder from the criminal justice reform group—and the highly unusual collective outrage from DAs—comes amidst a recent broadside attack from the attorney general at progressive voters and prosecutors who have, in recent years, opted out of the prevailing bipartisan “tough on crime” approach that still animates the GOP, and to a lesser extent the Democratic establishment.
The letter was a response to Barr’s speech before the Major County Sheriffs of America Winter Conference on Tuesday, during which the attorney general criticized “sanctuary” cities and “rogue DAs”:
Let me turn my attention to two substantial challenges to the rule of law we face today: so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions and, what I’ve been calling them, rogue DAs, who undermine—rather than advance—our ability to carry out effective law enforcement.
“And I want to be clear who I am talking about,” Barr continued. “These policies are designed to protect, and do protect, criminal aliens—that is, aliens whom state or local police have arrested for some other state or local crime.”
Barr then trained fire directly on “social justice” reformers:
Another similar problem is the increasing number of district attorneys who have fashioned for themselves a new role of judge-legislator-prosecutor. These self-styled “social justice” reformers are refusing to enforce entire categories of law, including law against resisting police officers. In so doing, these DAs are putting everyone in danger.
Krinsky, a long-serving former federal prosecutor, told Law&Crime via email that, “Sadly, recent remarks by AG Barr and attacks on reform-minded prosecutors around the country—elected by their communities to move away from past decades of failed policies that made the U.S. an international outlier in its rate of incarceration—seek to fuel a fear-driven narrative.”
“As today’s statement by dozens of elected prosecutors makes clear, these bold leaders will not be dissuaded,” Krinsky continued. “They refuse to adhere to policies that punished poverty, mental illness and addiction and will continue to be guided by approaches that are smart, data driven and aimed at fortifying trust in the justice system and ensuring healthy, safe and strong communities.“
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]