The Data That Can Make Prosecutors Engines of Criminal Justice Reform
Date:  12-11-2020

Shifting the focus from convictions and sentences to fairness and community wellbeing is key to transforming the system.
From Brennan Center for Justice:

Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery are a few of the recent victims of the criminal justice system’s failure to honor human life — especially the lives of Black Americans and other people of color. Their deaths generated a widespread demand for systemic change.

While much of the focus has been on police, people have become more acutely aware of the immense power that prosecutors wield. As we explore how to improve the system in its entirety, prosecutors must strive to be transparent about the work that their offices do every day. They need to be accountable to their communities and ensure that everyone is being treated equally, with particular attention to whether sentences are fair or disproportionately impacting marginalized people. A primary way to do that is by adopting new ways to measure success.

Prosecutors are sworn in as ministers of justice and must lead by example. But individual prosecutors, tasked with prosecuting the case before them, often operate in a silo, and typically do not have access to information about other cases — even cases within their own offices. To make matters worse, many prosecutors have an aversion to numbers. When I was a prosecutor in Miami, my co-workers and I had a running joke: we became lawyers because we couldn’t do math.

Lawyers might not be into numbers, but we always want evidence. And when collected and analyzed properly, data provides the type of evidence that prosecutors can use to effect important changes of practice. Continue reading >>>