Smart Justice
Prosecutorial Reform

What is a prosecutor?

A government employee, who brings legal proceedings against someone. When a person is accused of committing a crime, it is a prosecutor, not the police, who decides whether someone will be charged with a crime, how severe the charges will be, and who gets a second chance through diversion or treatment programs. Prosecutors have immense power to decide who will go to prison and for how long.

What is a county attorney?

A county attorney is an elected official who serves as your county’s top prosecutor. County attorneys set the policies and procedures that all prosecutors in their office must follow. County attorneys also might use their position of power to influence which laws are passed at the state Capitol. In Arizona, county attorneys are elected to serve four-year terms.

The next primary election: Aug. 4, 2020.
The next general election: Nov. 3, 2020.

To download our County Attorney Voter Education toolkit, click here.

A County Attorney Can…

Work to Reduce the Prison Population

Years of overzealous prosecution and harsh punishment in Arizona caused us to have one of the top five highest incarceration rates in the nation. A county attorney can create policies within their office to send less people to prison and make alternatives to incarceration, like drug treatment or mental health treatment, more accessible. A county attorney can also be a public advocate for criminal justice reform.

Hold Police Accountable for Killing or Hurting People

When police officers fire their weapons or use excessive force, it is up to the county attorney’s office to decide whether the officer will be charged with a crime. A county attorney can set policies to ensure any investigation of police misconduct is handled fairly and independently.

Stop Using Cash Bail to Keep Poor People in Jail

After a person is arrested, they are often forced to pay cash bail to secure their freedom while their case proceeds. A prosecutor asks a judge to either set bail at a certain dollar amount or allow the person to go free on a promise to return to court. A county attorney can order their prosecutors to stop asking for cash bail so people who pose no risk to the community are not trapped in jail just because they can’t afford to get out.

Choose Rehabilitation Instead of Prison

In 2017, 1 in 3 admissions into prison were for a drug offense. People struggling with substance abuse disorders need treatment, not prison. A county attorney can make free, accessible drug treatment programs the first option for people charged with drug offenses.

Keep Families Together

The actions of prosecutors can trigger deportation proceedings and tear families of mixed immigration status apart. A county attorney can require their prosecutors to consider immigration consequences so that families are kept together.  

The harm of prosecutorial misconduct

Khalil Rushdan's story

Khalil Rushdan grew up in a family of eight kids. He started selling drugs at 13 out of desperation to help his family make ends meet. At 22, he was convicted of a murder he did not commit. The charges stemmed from a drug deal in Pima County. He was the middleman and had no idea the deal, which he did not directly participate in, would end in a murder. When the Pima County Attorney was unable to convict the real killer, prosecutors went after Khalil. Khalil spent 15 years in prison before a judge overturned his conviction on evidence of vindictive prosecution. Although he is now free, Khalil never got the chance to watch his daughter grow up and missed precious moments with his mother, who died shortly after his release. “Those are things I can’t get back,” Khalil said. He now works for the ACLU of Arizona’s Campaign for Smart Justice and is a mentor to other formerly incarcerated individuals. “Upon my release and me being grateful to have another opportunity, I was like, ‘I have to give back,'” he said.