Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




M. David Forrest
Michael D. Parkin

Committee Member(s)

Amy Berg


Progressivism, Prosecution, Progressive prosecution, Progressive prosecutor, Mass incarceration, Social justice, Criminal justice, American politics


Elected prosecutors in the United States have facilitated mass incarceration, especially since 1994. In response, activists have helped to elect progressive prosecutors at the local level. This thesis examines whether prosecutors can achieve progressive goals, including increasing the fairness of the criminal justice process, prosecuting police abuse, and reducing incarceration. Based on three case studies, I find that prosecutors can reduce incarceration and increase the fairness of the criminal justice process, but that they currently face significant constraints in prosecuting police abuse. A prosecutor’s capacity to collaborate with more conservative agents is the most crucial factor for success and depends on not prosecuting police abuse, limiting the extent to which they reduce prosecutions, and, to a lesser degree, limiting how far they go toward promoting a fairer criminal process.