BPDA Statement on Why Anti-Racism Must be the End Goal of Justice System Reform

BPDA fully supports the sentiments expressed in Philadelphia’s Chief Defender Keir Bradford-Grey’s op-ed.

WASHINGTON (November 10, 2020) — The Black Public Defender Association issued the following statement today on why anti-racism must be the end goal of “progressive” prosecution and systemic justice reform in our country. We fully support the sentiments expressed in Philadelphia’s Chief Defender Keir Bradford-Grey’s op-ed “Justice system reform is impotent unless you eliminate racist practices” published by WHYY.org yesterday.

“Over the past four years, millions of dollars have gone towards electing and positioning “progressive” prosecutors as the leaders of criminal legal reform. Unfortunately, prosecutors — progressive or not — are not always the champions for Black, brown, and low-income people who continue to be targeted and oppressed by the system that prosecutors fight to uphold. High conviction rates rooted in racial bias remain a marker for their success, and many continue to push policies that do not scratch the surface of mass incarceration. 

Major donors and foundations that are pushing the “progressive” prosecutor movement should ensure that prosecutors commit to anti-racist practices. It is essential that prosecutors are able to recognize when they are treating behaviors as crimes solely based on who is committing the behaviors.

The Black Public Defender Association believes that resources that are used to push the “progressive” prosecutor movement should be reallocated towards properly funding community based solutions and public defender offices who are committed to racial equity with a focus on increasing the number of Black public defenders across the nation as they are the ones with both professional and personal experience on the ground fighting every day to end mass incarceration and systemic racism in the criminal legal system.”


The Black Public Defender Association aims to improve the quality of defense provided to low-income communities across the United States by creating and maintaining a national network of skilled Black public defenders that identify with and are committed to the populations they serve.