Transforming the System


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Encouraging transparency and accountability in prosecutorial decisions

Transparency and accountability measures can provide incentives for prosecutors to uphold the highest standards of integrity. For example, by collecting data about which charges prosecutors decline to pursue, or which sentences they request, supervisors can provide more effective guidance to junior prosecutors. They may discover, for example, that line prosecutors are seeking more severe penalties for a category of defendants who are otherwise similar to defendants for whom they seek a lesser punishment. This insight could be the impetus for focusing more attention on understanding this imbalance and, if necessary, implementing corrective measures. However, there is often a lack of data and transparency in the prosecutorial decision-making process that makes full evaluation impossible.

To remedy this lack of transparency, local and state governments, prosecutors’ offices, and the federal government should call for the following:

  • Independent review of the administration of prosecutors’ office to ensure that there is equity in prosecutorial decision-making;
  • “To address concerns regarding the disclosure of exculpatory material, states should require open file discovery.”
  • Data collection on prosecutorial decision-making, disaggregated by race, religion, sex, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, sexuality, and religious affiliation, on charging determinations, prosecutions, and diversion.

The Department of Justice should adopt these policies for federal prosecutor offices.

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