And since 2017, Real Justice has worked to elect District Attorneys who are serious about holding police accountable – including Shelby County DA Steve Mulroy — who just charged five of the police officers who brutally beat Tyre Nichols to death.
We are fighting to transform the system every single day at Real Justice PAC. In a minute, I am going to explain why this work to elect civil rights-minded DAs is so important. It’s a longer read but worth it, I PROMISE.
Here is a major point about the criminal legal system that I need you to understand:
It’s not one system. It’s not just one big system with one set of rules, with one set of laws, with one bad guy at the top. But instead it’s 30,000 microsystems, each with their own set of rules and policies.
Because of that, it can’t be reformed or overhauled or even just torn down in one fell swoop.
To change this system, it has to be changed in many instances.
One jail, one prison, one police department, one sheriff’s office, one DA’s office, one town, one city, one county, one state, one law at a time.
And I think that that is both great news for us and also absolutely horrible news for us all at the same time. It’s great because while we might not be able to change the whole system at once, we are strong enough to change parts of it, piece by piece, department by department, person by person, law by law.
And Real Justice has just done that by helping to elect bold district attorneys in Philadelphia, in St. Louis, in Boston, in San Antonio, and in so many other cities and counties across the country. A total of 35 new justice champions elected since 2017. And those DAs are changing the game.
We are able to do that because our organization set very specific goals. We joined other organizations on the ground who share those goals, and we helped flip those positions over to women and men who are determined to change the game from the inside out. Organizations and activists across the country are now targeting individual police departments, individual jails, and they are seeing some progress.
The greater news is this if you are determined and organized enough, you can change these microsystems in very substantive ways and it will impact tens of thousands of lives.
Together, we focus and act on the microsystems. We can change them, but let me break down the systems that we have.
You’ve probably heard me say this before, but we have about 2,400 district attorneys. These are the locally elected prosecutors, and in some places you may call them county attorney, some people call them the state’s attorney.
Either way, about 93% of all court cases are funneled through those 2,400 offices.
And out of the 2,400 district attorneys, just 150 of them cover over 50% of all people who are incarcerated. So let me do the math on those total numbers.
Of all the systems, we have 2,400 DAs plus 18,000 different law enforcement offices, and we have 7,000 jails and prisons. That means we have about 27,400 different legal systems operating concurrently all over the country.
And if we add to that number all the different additional local, state and federal agencies that fall outside of those three main categories of local district attorney’s offices, local law enforcement offices, and local jails and prisons, we end up with about 30,000 different law enforcement agencies and offices that are operating all over the country.
We need your help to elect more DAs who will fight to transform these local microsystems so that cops are held accountable, wrongfully convicted people are freed from prison, and Black and brown people are no longer criminalized and caged. Please, donate whatever you can afford now.
Let me show you just how complicated it truly is.
The United States has 51,200 judges, over 51,000 different judges on the local, state, and federal level. And each judge can run their courtroom in wildly different ways.
We have over 1 million law enforcement officers across local, state, and federal departments. And as we’ve seen each of them, one by one, interpret policies and laws in their own unique ways.
That’s all to say: We can’t solve a problem that we cannot describe. We can’t solve a problem if we don’t really even know the equation. We can’t solve a problem if we truly don’t know how to describe it. Who’s in it? Who’s involved? If we don’t fully have our mind wrapped around all of the factors in the problem, how can we solve it?
Now, we need to be able to dig deeper, much deeper, and describe the problem. We need to be able to describe it so much better so that we can work to solve the problem that we’re actually up against.
Today, I just wanted to teach a little bit and explain why Real Justice is so important. We focus on the hyper-local, the metropolitan, the niche, the federal: anywhere there is a legal system, Real Justice is fighting to elect leaders who will bring much needed change to these systems.