Rural Spaces, Communities of Color, and the Progressive Prosecutor

Maybell Romero | November 22, 2020

The concept of the progressive prosecutor has captured the attention of many newspapers, media outlets, district attorney candidates, legal scholars, and the public at large. Many with sincere interests in reforming the criminal legal system have excitedly traced the success of candidates styling themselves as progressive prosecutors. Although located throughout the country, these progressive prosecutors share a geographic commonality—they generally hail from large cities or urban metroplexes. Examples include Wesley Bell in St. Louis, Rachael Rollins in Boston, Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, and Kim Foxx in Chicago. Meanwhile, in the rural reaches of the country, disproportionate contact between police and minorities has increased. In rural jurisdictions, incarceration rates have increased, and prosecutors have seemingly become less reform minded. This Article casts suspicion on progressive prosecution. It questions whether such an appellation should exist given the current nature of the prosecutor’s job in the United States. It also serves as a warning; although such prosecutors have become more common in large cities, practitioners and scholars should not forget that reforms that occur in large jurisdictions sometimes do not extend to those suffering injustices in small communities.