Marilyn Mosby, Maryland State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, is the youngest top prosecutor of any major city in America.
At 36, she gained national attention when she announced she would prosecute six officers in the death of Freddie Gray. Mosby stopped by NewsOne Now on Tuesday to discuss criminal justice reform with host Roland Martin.
Additionally, Mosby – who has been in office for approximately 15 months – has worked on a number of other initiatives to combat crime and work smarter, not harder to reform criminal justice in the city of Baltimore.
Traditionally, District Attorneys side with law enforcement when prosecuting crimes. Martin asked Mosby how she balances her role as a prosecutor with the desire to seek justice for the people of Baltimore. Mosby explained, “At the end of the day, the reason I became a prosecutor is because the mission of a prosecutor is to seek justice over convictions.”
“That means pursuing justice on behalf of victims and witnesses and crimes — justice on behalf of defendants — and we can all see that prosecutorial discretion has a lot of consequences, collateral consequences on our community,” said Mosby.
She continued, “It’s about applying justice fairly and equally regardless of sex, occupation, your religion, and that is something that I take very seriously.”
Baltimore police officers expressed outrage when Mosby decided to prosecute six of their own in the death of Freddie Gray. Mosby considers this a “cultural shift” and said, “When you see what is happening in Baltimore City, you see that you’re applying justice fairly and equally to everybody.”
“We’ve tried to work with the police department, we’ve tried to apply justice fairly to the worst of the worst — you break the law, you’re going to held accountable for it.”
During her exclusive interview with Martin, Mosby weighed in on the national criminal justice reform debate: “We’ve seen the result of this mass incarceration; it’s had a disproportionate impact on communities of color.” She later added, “It’s not just about being tough on crime anymore, we have to start being smart on crime.”
While speaking about what specifically is being done to improve public relations with the African-American community, Mosby said, “In the Baltimore City State’s Attorney office we have several initiatives where we have to start to break down those barriers of distrust in our communities … we also have to be able to hold the worst of the worst violent repeat offenders that are wreaking havoc in our communities accountable.”
Mosby told Martin her top priority when she assumed office was to break down those barriers. She began by creating a community affairs division where the focus was on “crime control and prevention, community engagement and victim witness services in the home of the ‘stop snitching’ campaign.” Mosby added, “We’re better protecting victims and witnesses, we’re making sure we’re getting to our young people before they actually get to the criminal justice system.”
Later, Mosby expressed how important it is to reach the youth of Baltimore: “We have to get to these young people before they actually get to the criminal justice system, because once they’re there, there’s really no turning back.”
Mosby also addressed the plight of returned citizens who face an uphill battle as a result of how society views them and the various pieces of legislation that seem to keep them from advancing after they’ve paid their debt to society.
Mosby said we must “elect individuals that are going to represent our interest.”
Her husband Nick J. Mosby, who is currently campaigning to be the next Mayor of Baltimore, introduced “Ban the Box,” which according to the State’s Attorney is one of the “most progressive pieces of legislation in the country.”
With legislation instituted under Ban the Box, private employers can no longer utilize the question “Have you ever been convicted of crime?” to vet job applicants. In Baltimore, background checks cannot be administered until after the potential employee has received a “conditional offer of employment.” Mosby continued, “That’s the kind of leadership that we need all across the country” and agreed with Martin that people deserve a chance at redemption.
Martin asked Mosby to share her views on why more African-Americans should consider becoming prosecutors. In America, 95 percent of the prosecutors are White, 79 percent are White males, and there are 14 states with no prosecutors of color. “As a women of color, I represent 1 percent of all elected prosecutors in this country,” said Mosby.
She continued, “These are the individuals that are making a decision about who is going to be charged, what they are going to be charged with, what sentence recommendation they are going to make — we need more of us on both sides of the fence, and I have to say that we have to utilize that discretion in ways that we can consider recidivism, and we can consider the young people and have an alternative to incarceration.”
Watch Roland Martin and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby discuss criminal justice reform and police reform in the video clip above.
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