It could happen to you. Or your closest family members or friends.

Anyone can find themselves arrested, in jail and charged with a crime. And what happens next largely depends on how the prosecuting attorney chooses to dispense justice.

Prosecutors are the most influential actors in the criminal justice system. For decades, they have exercised their nearly unchecked power to push for more punishment in their local communities.

Just ask Caroline Giammanco.

Her husband, Keith Giammanco, was prosecuted a second time in St. Louis County for crimes he had plead guilty to in federal court. He then was sentenced to 20 years in state prison: triple the time a federal judge had given him and triple the cost for Missouri’s taxpayers who are now funding his incarceration.

In the economic recession of 2007, Keith, a stockbroker, found himself at the brink of bankruptcy. In order to keep his house, feed his two teenage daughters and pay for their schooling, he robbed 12 banks in the St. Louis region.

After he was arrested for the first time in his life, Keith took responsibility for his crimes and plead guilty to all twelve unarmed bank robberies.  The judge who sentenced him said Keith had “one of the most sincere apologies” she’d ever seen on the bench. After receiving his federal sentence, justice should have been served.

But the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney’s office chose to seek another conviction and harsh prison sentence, despite the fact that the St. Charles prosecuting attorney chose to decline pursuing additional charges.

Instead of release in 2014, Keith can’t come home until 2025, at the earliest. If he only served his federal sentence, he would’ve seen his daughters, Elise and Marissa, when they were 24. They will be 38 years old when Keith is released.

This isn’t justice. Imprisonment is a harsh and costly response to crime that hurts families and communities. It should be the last option, not the first.

St. Louis County needs reform-minded prosecutors that are committed to reducing incarceration and prioritizing alternatives more effective at preventing future crime.

Your vote for prosecuting attorney in the August 7 primary has the ability to shape a prosecuting office that works towards justice, not convictions.

 You can learn more about the role of the prosecuting attorney and read questionnaires answered by St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Democratic candidates Bob McCulloch and Wesley Bell on our website: PickYourPA.org.

 

 

 

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