For decades prosecutors have routinely been both praised and criticized for their decisions, but until recently, the scope of prosecutorial decision-making authority—the sheer power granted to prosecutors—got little public scrutiny. Outside of legal practitioners, and defendants on the receiving end of prosecutorial discretion, many Americans have little conception of how much latitude DAs have in the criminal justice process. Consequently, many also underestimate how much responsibility prosecutors bear for profound systemic failures like mass incarceration, widespread racial disparities in the justice system, and the persistence of violent crime plaguing the same communities for whom the system is most punitive.
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