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December 3, 2018

"21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new report from the folks at Fair and Just Prosecution, Brennan Center for Justice, Emily Bazelon, and The Justice Collaborative.  Here is its introduction:

Prosecutors are charged with addressing violations of criminal law and promoting public safety. In carrying out these responsibilities, they must also bear in mind their role as ministers of justice and consider the rights, needs, and interests of all members of their community — including victims and individuals who are charged with criminal conduct.

Prosecutors wield enormous influence at every stage of the criminal process, from initial charging decisions to the sentences sought and imposed Along the way, they often control decisions about plea bargains and whether mandatory minimum sentences will be triggered, and thus greatly impact whether (and for how long) defendants remain in jail and prison.

Over the last four decades, the total incarcerated population in the United States has quintupled, to 2.2 million, or nearly 1 out of 100 adults. About 10.6 million people cycle in and out of jail each year.  While the causes are complex, it’s clear that punitive policies have contributed to the incarceration build-up.  These policies have included the war on drugs, over-policing of poor and minority communities, and harsh directives from legislators, like mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.  Putting so many people behind bars imposes great costs and burdens on them, their families, and our country.

In recent years, the role of prosecutors has received increasing attention.  Given their powers, prosecutors are well positioned to make changes that can roll back over-incarceration.  They can use their discretion to improve the overall fairness and efficacy of the criminal justice system and champion priorities that improve the safety and well-being of our communities.

Fairness is paramount It helps achieve the mission of public safety by building trust, which in turn aids police and prosecutors in solving crime The 21 principles below offer practical steps prosecutors can take to transform their offices, and collectively, their profession.

The principles include examples of innovative endeavors by prosecutors around the nation, not necessarily as endorsements, but as illustrations of new approaches.  We recognize that prosecution is local, and some of these recommendations and examples won’t be suited to all jurisdictions.  We nonetheless hope that these ideas generate conversation, creative thinking, and change.

The central aspiration of these principles is at once simple and profound: that prosecutors will adopt a new and bold 21st Century vision for meting out mercy and justice.

December 3, 2018 at 05:03 PM | Permalink

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