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The election of “progressive prosecutors” introduces new objectives and tools into the traditional “tough on crime” playbook of local prosecution. Newly-elected District Attorney Rachael Rollins of Suffolk County, Massachusetts has proposed one such tool: non-prosecution of certain criminal laws, chiefly non-violent misdemeanors. This Note explores the likelihood of success of legal challenges to categorical non-prosecution, primarily whether non-prosecution unconstitutionally violates the separation of powers. This Note considers whether non-prosecution implicates the rights of victims and notions of justice as a public or private domain. It also analyzes the merits of non-prosecution as a policy. Some critics challenge the ability of progressive prosecutors to change the criminal justice system from the inside, while others claim that non-prosecution of so-called quality-of-life crimes damages communities rather than enriching them. Alternatively, those supportive of reform herald non-prosecution as a means of allowing local communities to influence the conduct of law enforcement, arguing that petty crime reflects public health failures that should be resolved by social services instead of jail-time. As novel as it is controversial, the proposed non-prosecution policy deserves close attention from legal scholars and criminal reform advocates.


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6 Sep 2022
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  • Subject
    • Criminal Law

    • Criminal Procedure

    • Law and Society

    • State and Local Government Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 60

  • Issue
    • 8

  • Pagination
    • 2511

  • Date submitted

    6 September 2022