A Public Defender Definition of Progressive Prosecution


True progressive prosecution requires wholesale, bold, dramatic reform in how prosecutors view people accused of law violations, how they adjudicate and punish violent crime, and the way they pursue convictions. Progressive prosecution must mean a change in culture and priorities in district attorneys’ offices.

We define “progressive prosecution” as the model of prosecution committed to truth-telling about systemic racism, shrinking mass criminalization, addressing root causes of crime, and bringing the criminal legal system in line with basic notions of justice and humanity.

The aim of this definition is to provide a framework that enables differentiation between real progressive prosecution that reduces crime and make our communities safer versus prosecution practices that cause harm and perpetuate the status quo. Several ideas, discussed below, emanate from this definition. These ideas are based on our experiences as practitioners and witnesses to the system and are united by the premise that progressive prosecutors can undo past harms and do much good by refraining from practices that drive criminalization, perpetuate mass incarceration, foster systemic racism, and ultimately make our communities less safe.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • Avanindar Singh and Sajid A. Khan, A Public Defender Definition of Progressive Prosecution, 16 Stan. J. C.R. & C.L. 475 (2021).
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