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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
The study was supported by Grant No. 98-IJ-CX-0030 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Justice.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council (2001) What's Changing in Prosecution? Report of a Workshop.Committee on Law and Justice, Phillip Heymann and Carol Petrie, Editors. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
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COMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE
Charles F. Wellford (Chair), Center for Applied Policy Studies and Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland
Joan Petersilia (Vice Chair), School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine
Alfred Blumstein, H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University
Jeanette Covington, Department of Sociology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Ruth Davis, The Pymatuning Group, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia
Jeffrey Fagan, Schools of Law and Public Health, Columbia University
Darnell Hawkins, Department of African American Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago
Philip Heymann, Center for Criminal Justice, Harvard University School of Law
Candace Kruttschnitt, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota
Mark Lipsey, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University
Colin Loftin, School of Criminal Justice, State University of New York at Albany
John Monahan, School of Law, University of Virginia
Daniel Nagin, H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University
Peter Reuter, School of Public Policy and Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland
Wesley Skogan, Department of Political Science and Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
Kate Stith, School of Law, Yale University
Michael Tonry, Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, and University of Minnesota Law School
Cathy Spatz Widom, Department of Psychiatry, New Jersey Medical School
Carol V. Petrie, Director
Recently, America has seen a dramatic decline in rates of most violent crimes. Property crime rates have been slowly declining for over twenty years. Regardless of whether crime is rising or falling, however, public concern about crime remains high. Over the last twenty years, we have learned a great deal through research about crime, law enforcement, the courts, sentencing, and corrections. Prosecution is notable in this context for the lack of rigorous social science research that has been conducted on it, in contrast to these other sectors of the criminal justice system. While some data are regularly collected on the prosecution function, only a handful of quantitative studies of prosecution or its impact on crime, justice, or community safety have been conducted since the late 1970s. The literature that does exist consists mostly of descriptive case studies of functions and the implementation processes associated with new programs. There is an almost equally sparse, legal literature on prosecution that has been summarized in review articles. The same could be said about the defense function. While this report focuses on prosecution, research on the defense bar is also lacking.
To many, prosecution is a pragmatic function—one component of a larger process designed to hold accountable those who break the law. The benefit of conducting social science research on prosecution has not been well defined, and many prosecutors at this workshop viewed the potential application of research findings with considerable skepticism. Other criminal justice agencies once viewed research in this way. But to learn of the
benefits of research for criminal justice agency operations generally, one has only to ask police, judges, and correctional officials.
This workshop arose out of the efforts of the Committee on Law and Justice to assist the National Institute of Justice in identifying gaps in the overall research portfolio on crime and justice. It was designed to develop ideas about the kinds of knowledge needed to gain a better understanding of the prosecution function and to discuss the past and future role of social science in advancing our understanding of modern prosecution practice. The Committee on Law and Justice was able to bring together senior scholars who have been working on this subject as well as current or former chief prosecutors, judges, and senior officials from the U.S. Department of Justice to share their perspectives. Workshop participants mapped out basic data needs, discussed the need to know more about recent innovations such as community prosecution, and discussed areas where one would expect to see changes that have not occurred. The resulting report summarizes these discussions and makes useful suggestions for learning more about prosecution.
Many people made generous contributions to the workshop's success. We thank the authors of the papers presented—Brian Forst, American University; Candace McCoy, Rutgers University; Michael E. Smith, University of Wisconsin Law School; and Christopher Stone and Nicholas Turner, Vera Institute of Justice—for sharing their insights with the group. We thank the scholars and prosecutors who provided formal commentary on the papers: Noel Brennan, U.S. Department of Justice; Michael Bromwich, U.S. Department of Justice; Todd Clear, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Roger Conner, National Institute of Justice; Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University; David Ford, Indiana University; Bruce Green, Fordham University School of Law; Raymond Marinaccio, Manhattan District Attorney's Office; E. Michael McCann, chief prosecutor, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Robert S. Meuller, United States Attorney, Northern District of California; Andrew Sonner, Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
We thank editor Lorraine Ferrier for her invaluable support and Karen Autrey, senior project assistant, for organizational assistance and logistics support. We also thank the workshop chair Phillip Heymann, Harvard University School of Law, and Carol Petrie, director of the Committee on Law and Justice, for their work in organizing the workshop and editing this report.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with pro-
cedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Joel Garner, Joint Centers for Justice Studies, Inc., Shepherdstown, West Virginia; Peter Reuter, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland; Debra Whitcomb, Grant Programs and Development, American Prosecutors Research Institute, Alexandria, Virginia; and Franklin Zimring, Earl Warren Legal Institute, University of California, Berkeley.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by James Q. Wilson, professor emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles, and Reagan professor of public policy, Pepperdine University. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring panel and the institution.
Charles Wellford, Chair
Committee on Law and Justice