The ACLU of Missouri has launched effort to educate voters about the candidates in the Cole County prosecuting attorney election this November.

The campaign is part of a larger effort to help people understand that their vote can help transform the criminal justice system. In Cole County and communities across Missouri, smart justice policies start with the prosecuting attorney, the single most powerful individual who shapes what justice looks like.

While the ACLU of Missouri does not support, oppose or endorse candidates, the organization’s effort to educate voters on the role of the Prosecuting Attorney is key in protecting civil liberties statewide.

“Voters should understand that they have the power to elect officials who treat poor and rich defendants equally, fight against government corruption and create transparency in the office,” said Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU of Missouri executive director. “Smart justice means looking at ways to decrease the number of people in our prisons and jails, while saving lives and saving taxpayer dollars.”

Missouri ranks eighth-highest in the nation when it comes to how many of its citizens are behind bars. Since 2010, the state’s female prison population has increased 33 percent and is the fastest growing in the nation.

A community’s prosecuting attorney holds immense power at each stage of the criminal proceedings – from charging decisions to the sentences they seek – and can wield that influence to transform the criminal justice system.

In an effort to educate voters, the ACLU is partnering with Missouri Faith Voices for canvasses in Cole County leading up to the November 6 election. Voters can find information on the race, including questionnaires answered by Cole County Prosecuting Attorney candidates D.K. Hirner (Democrat) and Locke Thompson (Republican) at www.PickYourPA.org.

Additionally, the ACLU, Missouri Catholic Conference, the Missouri Reform Coalition and Missouri Faith Voices are hosting a candidate forum from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on October 23 at Lincoln University Scruggs Center, 819 Chestnut St., Jefferson City, MO 65101. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask the candidates questions about their plans to reform the criminal justice system.

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