Pop quiz. Who is the most powerful person in the criminal justice system? No, it’s not a judge. It’s your local county attorney. They decide in criminal cases who is charged, the severity of those charges, or if any charges are filed.
Second question in this pop quiz, how do county attorneys get to be county attorneys? Answer: they are popularly elected just like state representatives and senators! And yet, they are often one of the least understood elected positions and least known by voters.
The decisions they make directly impact the racial disparities that we see throughout the criminal legal system, including in New Hampshire’s incarceration rates. As our state grapples with systemic racism and makes a concerted effort to advance racial justice, this work must include scrutiny of our prosecutors as well as our law enforcement. While police have the sole power to decide whom to arrest, it is prosecutors who have the most power over the legal fate of those arrested.
We asked all the candidates a range of questions about systemic racism and the criminal legal system. The answers we have received are below.