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June 6, 2020

New (and free) Federal Sentencing Reporter issue on "State Prosecutors: Their Impact on Mass Incarceration and Criminal Justice Reform"

As mentioned in this prior post, the academic publisher of the Federal Sentencing ReporterUniversity of California Press, has responded to the impact of the coronavirus crisis by making all UC Press online journal content free to everyone through June 2020.  I continue to be grateful to UC Press for this move, as it allows me to flag the latest FSR issue and some of the articles therein. This new issue was put together by FSR editor/Prof Nora Demleitner and the title and coverage in her opening article provides an an overview:

State Prosecutors at the Center of Mass Imprisonment and Criminal Justice Reform by Nora Demleitner:

In this Issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter we turn to the role of state prosecutors in sentencing.  In recent years, both the scholarly discourse and the advocacy community have increasingly focused on the impact prosecutors have had on mass imprisonment and the expansion of the supervision regime.  A new cohort of ‘‘progressive prosecutors’’ have campaigned on the promise of less imprisonment and greater racial equality.  Some have captured the head prosecutor positions in large U.S. jurisdictions, including Chicago, Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.  They have instituted a host of often dramatic changes. To date, smaller jurisdictions and less urban areas of the country have been little impacted by this prosecutorially driven move toward criminal justice reform.

This Issue highlights the different levels of decision making that are in the hands of prosecutors throughout the criminal justice process.  From the allocation of resources and charging policies to the explicit refusal to ever ask for a death sentence, prosecutorial choices impact the sentences the criminal justice system imposes.  With the ever-growing expansion of the prosecutorial toolbox and impact, increasingly the decisions of district attorneys have repercussions for other aspects of communities, such as the mental health system.  Prosecutor elections can have a vast impact on communities, but Carissa Hessick’s study on prosecutor elections in this Issue highlights how they can be undemocratic and how their importance can be underestimated.

The ongoing crisis surrounding COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has brought countries, including our own, virtually to a standstill, vividly displays the role prosecutors play in our communities and the impact their decisions have on the welfare and life of those involved in the criminal justice system.  There may be no more powerful indicator of prosecutors’ influence than their ability to prioritize public health concerns during this crisis in order to help thin out jail populations and thereby create greater means to ‘‘social distance’’ behind bars.  Even though local prosecutors play an active role in populating state prisons, their role in decreasing the prison population is more limited, especially when prisons preclude front-end entry through jail transfers.

Here are some of the original articles from the issue:

Reimagining a Prosecutor’s Role in Sentencing by Lauren-Brooke Eisen and Courtney M. Oliva

Local Prosecutor Elections: Results of a National Study by Carissa Byrne Hessick

Prosecutor-Driven “Second-Look” Policies Are Encouraging, but Not a Panacea by Rory Fleming

Bettering Prosecutorial Engagement to Reduce Crime, Prosecutions, and the Criminal Justice Footprint by Assistant District Attorney Sabrina Margret Bierer

A Qualitative Perspective on Alternative Sentencing Practices in Virginia by Anne Metz

June 6, 2020 at 02:24 PM | Permalink


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