The Boston data comes from a study conducted by Anna Harvey, a New York University professor of politics; Amanda Agan, a Rutgers University economist; and Jennifer Doleac, an economist at Texas A&M University. They looked at years prior to Rollins’ election, comparing cases that could have prosecuted but weren’t with equivalent cases that were prosecuted.
”Among these cases, not only did those not facing prosecution have less than half the chance of a new criminal complaint as those whose cases were pursued, the number of violent offense charges faced by this group within two years was 64 percent lower than for comparable defendants who faced prosecution,” Commonwealth Magazine reports. “All told, 24 percent of those not prosecuted faced arrest again within two years compared with 57 percent of those who had been prosecuted for a similar charge.”
The effect was even stronger for first-time offenders. This research was possible in part because, while Rollins has drawn attention for her outspokenness and her official policy of nonprosecution, her (white, male) predecessor had also eased up on prosecution of lower-level offenses. In fact, according to the researchers, Rollins’ policy led to just a 15% to 20% drop in such prosecutions in its first year.
Rollins pointed out a key takeaway from the research, calling for “a reallocation of resources” to give help to people who can be steered away from entering the criminal justice system and focus policing on more serious crime.
In Baltimore, even as Mosby stopped prosecuting drug possession, prostitution, trespassing, and other minor nonviolent crimes, violent crime “dropped 20 percent from last March to this month, property crime decreased 36 percent, and there were 13 fewer homicides compared with the previous year,” The Washington Post reports. “This happened while 39 percent fewer people entered the city’s criminal justice system in the one-year period, and 20 percent fewer people landed in jail after Mosby’s office dismissed more than 1,400 pending cases and tossed out more than 1,400 warrants for nonviolent crimes.” That happened while violent crime and homicides rose in other cities.
”What we learned in that year, and it’s so incredibly exciting, is there’s no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses. These low-level offenses were being, and have been, discriminately enforced against Black and Brown people,” Mosby told the Post.
“The era of ‘tough on crime’ prosecutors is over in Baltimore,” she continued. “We have to rebuild the community’s trust in the criminal justice system and that’s what we will do, so we can focus on violent crime.”
There’s a damn good reason for “tough on crime” prosecutors to become yesterday’s news: Their way doesn’t work. It perpetuates systemic racism without making people safer.