Regarding that latter recommendation, I should say I disagree somewhat (and suspect Shannon Edmonds, much less John Bradley, would, too), with Friedersdorf's contention that "Comparatively little attention has been paid to the role that prosecutors and local courts play in the criminal justice system." It's just that most of that attention has focused on outright prosecutorial misconduct and has taken place in the context of the innocence movement.
Decarceration advocates, by contrast, are asking that we consider not just outright misdeeds by prosecutors but also harmful use of their legal discretion. Upon asking the question, one immediately discovers that there's scarce little data - much less apples-to-apples data across jurisdictions - to judge prosecutors' practices related to over-incarceration. Since it's impossible to control what one cannot measure, developing those metrics is an important, oft-neglected step toward confronting mass incarceration. Which is why I'm oddly looking forward to diving into the dryly titled "Prosecutorial Analytics" for Grits' holiday-weekend reading.
MORE (7/3): From "Prosecutorial Analytics," which "argues that analytics offers promise as a tool to 1) regulate prosecutors’ expanding power; 2) more accurately measure prosecutorial performance; and 3) improve constitutional decision-making."
Analytics can mine historical data to help identify prosecutors who might be more likely to commit misconduct in the future. It can help identify prosecutors or prosecutorial offices that engage in or are more likely to engage in race-based jury selection practices. It can also help identify undesirable trends in charging and plea bargaining. Simultaneously, it can provide the public better data to evaluate prosecutorial performance. We are unlikely to ever approach the equivalent of open-source prosecuting, but analytics gets us closer. And in doing so, it promises dramatic increases in transparency.Here are some suggestions for using analytics to identify patterns in prosecutorial charging decisions:
While many studies focus on the racial implications of prosecutorial charging decisions, analytics can deliver relevant information about additional factors, including factors that do not raise constitutional concerns. For example, we could track 1) how often the crime of arrest corresponds to the charged crime and to the ultimate conviction; 2) which crimes are complements in the sense that they are often charged together; 3) how often is a particular crime charged and how often is it dropped (and at what stage); and 4) whether these actions correlate with a host of variables including, the race and gender of the defendant and victim, whether the defendant is in custody pre-trial, or, for example whether the defendant is represented by a private or public defense attorney. Importantly, this information could be compared among prosecutors, across different prosecutorial offices, and over time.Also: "While the Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has allowed the growth of analytics as a crime-fighting tool, constitutional criminal procedure has simultaneously insulated prosecutorial decision-making from its reach."
AND MORE: Another recent academic paper for the reading list: "The nature and function of prosecutorial power."