Lawyers: So-called progressive prosecutors have failed us

It’s a basic civil right to live in a safe community. To achieve safe communities, we need responsible prosecutors.

A prosecutor’s job is to pursue justice, which requires enforcing the laws in a fair and just manner. Good prosecutors understand that their responsibility is to follow the law, protect the rights of victims, respect the constitutional rights of all citizens and engage with communities affected by violence. So-called progressive prosecutors are not progressive in the traditional sense. They are politically driven and have served only to degrade the quality of the criminal justice system in communities throughout the United States.


With Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx at the helm, Black Chicagoans are being slain more than their white counterparts. In 2021, Chicago recorded 797 homicides, and in 2022, there were 695, both more than any other city in the United States, with Black residents comprising nearly 80% of those killed.


In his book “Criminal (In)Justice: What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong and Who It Hurts Most,” Rafael Mangual, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, notes that while Black people constitute 13.4% of the population, they made up more than 53% of the nation’s homicide victims in 2020. The policies of so-called reform prosecutors disproportionately hurt African Americans — the very people they proclaim they want to protect.

In his article “The Progressive Prosecutor Project: How and why the nation’s crimebusters are becoming criminal enablers,” former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy alerts the reader to “a new and uniquely destructive actor on the 21st-century scene: the progressive prosecutor.” These prosecutors refuse to prosecute entire categories of crimes. Their policies — not seeking bail or pretrial detention and declining to prosecute crimes — do not promote public safety.

Take former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. When Troy McAlister faced a life sentence due to his long, violent criminal record, Boudin cut a deal with him to put him back on the streets. Once released, McAlister predictably committed a series of crimes, leading to five separate arrests. Boudin refused to charge him each time. Finally, on New Year’s Eve 2020, McAlister allegedly stole a car and ran over two women crossing the road, killing them both.

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Their deaths were tragically preventable, and they died on Boudin’s watch. Boudin placed his personal agenda and political beliefs above his duty as a prosecutor. Unfortunately, there are more like him across the country, and we must counter this dangerous movement.

The American Center for Law & Public Safety stands for course correction. We are a national organization of current and former U.S. attorneys, local prosecutors, sheriffs, police officers and others committed to preserving the rule of law and protecting the public. We are bipartisan because we elevate the rule of law and public safety in our common mission to educate the public and support prosecutors who pursue justice.

We understand the importance in the fair and impartial administration of justice and have five principles that help guide our support of good prosecutors across the country. These principles are: prioritization of public safety, respect for the rule of law, support of victims’ rights, collaboration with law enforcement and support of post-sentence reentry.

Progress has been made. In San Francisco, voters removed Boudin in a recall election in June 2022. In Chicago, Foxx announced she will not run for reelection next year. In St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner stepped down in June. While it is positive when bad prosecutors leave office, they never should have been there in the first place. We must ensure that these prosecutors are not replaced with more of the same. We need responsible prosecutors in every jurisdiction in this country.

This is not a partisan issue. Millions of Americans in communities across the country need us to get this right. Their lives depend on it.


John Milhiser is a former U.S. attorney and state’s attorney in Illinois, Billy Williams is a former U.S. attorney and senior deputy district attorney in Oregon, Nancy Parr is a former commonwealth’s attorney for Chesapeake, Virginia, and Timothy Shea is a former acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. attorney in D.C.

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