Enough With the Ideologues: How One Common Sense Prosecutor is Changing the Debate Over Criminal Justice

Across the country, a debate over the future of criminal justice rages on. Unfortunately, the debate often features two equally ideological forces — the “tough-on-crime” traditionalists and the ultra-progressive “reformers.” The former contribute to the inequities of our criminal justice system and the problem of mass incarceration. For the latter, victims are too often an afterthought. Reform is sometimes pursued at the expense of families and residents’ quality of life.

Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig doesn’t fit into either of these moulds. He considers himself an undogmatic jurist. He says he follows the data wherever it leads. While Reisig has been critical of jail reform measures like Prop 47 and Prop 57, his office has also embraced the restorative justice model. It does so on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that the criminal justice system is complex.

Thanks to expanded prosecutorial powers under Assembly Bill 2942, Reisig has secured early release for nine reformed convicts and counting. No victims opposed their release because the effort was collaborative and transparent and the inmates’ transformation was clear.

The Yolo County DA's office also became a national leader this year when it launched Commons, a portal that provides transparent criminal justice data and benchmarks. The office has launched a sentencing tool that aims to remove race as a potential influencer in decision-making. It created a mental health court, an addiction intervention court, and a neighborhood court to address lower-level offenses outside of the traditional courtroom.

“What Reisig and Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven are doing in Yolo County is more than simply offering an innovative approach to prosecuting,” writes Yousef Baig in a column for the Sacramento Bee. “They’re charting a sensible path to contemporary criminal justice and lasting change. Their work contrasts with that of well-known progressives such as San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón. It’s a model that traditionalists like Sacramento’s Anne Marie Schubert can and should be emulating.”

Read more about about Jeff Reisig and his pragmatic prosecutorial style here.