Umich Law's Progressive Prosecutor course explores 'eliminating racial and socioeconomic inequity'

'Progressive Prosecution: Law and Policy' is teaching students to look past 'tough-on-crime' policies in favor of a more 'progressive' approach to criminal justice.

Students are also instructed on how the progressive prosecutor movement has helped in 'combatting overincarceration.'

A course at the University of Michigan Law School, “Progressive Prosecution: Law and Policy” is teaching students to look past “tough-on-crime” policies in favor of a more “progressive” approach that prioritizes “combatting overincarceration” and “eliminating racial and socioeconomic inequity.” 

As a “practice simulation” class, the course also promises students the opportunity to work on “real-world projects” for use by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office to “move forward its progressive vision.”

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Victoria McCaskey Burton-Harris and Eli Savit are listed as the instructors for the 2-credit course. Savit currently serves as the elected Prosecuting Attorney for Washtenaw County and Burton-Harris is the county’s appointed Chief Assistant Prosecutor

Savit also served as a law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and senior legal counsel for the City of Detroit. He ran for County Prosecutor on a platform of “equitable justice.”

Burton-Harris previously worked in family law at her private firm and has written extensively on criminal justice reform. According to her Michigan faculty biography, she seeks to “end mass incarceration.”

Heritage Foundation scholar Hans von Spakovsky criticized the “progressive prosecutor movement” in a recent PJ Media column

“Their refusal to prosecute misdemeanors and many felonies, when combined with their push for no-cash bail and no detention for criminals awaiting trial, has devastated urban communities and victimized the very individuals they claim they are trying to help—law-abiding citizens in poor, often majority-minority urban neighborhoods,” he writes.

In a conversation with Campus Reform, Heritage Legal Fellow Zack Smith stated that the term “progressive prosecution” is “misleading because there’s nothing ‘progressive’ about it.”

“Where these so-called ‘progressive’ reforms have been implemented,” Smith said, “things are getting worse, communities are suffering, and in fact violent crimes in many of these communities are increasing.”

Smith also noted that one of the ironies of the “progressive prosecutor” movement is that “the very individuals this movement is supposed to help actually end up being victimized by it the most.” 

“If you look at who’s actually being victimized when violent crimes increase, when shootings and homicides increase, by and large, it’s young black men,” Smith told Campus Reform

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Smith also challenged the claims of “over-incarceration,” pointing that most inmates in state and federal prison are repeat violent offenders. 

“Whenever you talk about reducing the prison population,” Smith explained, “that necessarily means you’re not going to incarcerate or you’re going to let go early some of these violent repeat individuals.”

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Michigan, Savit, and Burton-Harris for comment. This story will be updated accordingly.