CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, May 19, 2017

Barkow & Osler on Prosecutorial Resistance to Reform

Rachel E. Barkow and Mark William Osler (New York University School of Law and University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota)) have posted Designed to Fail: The President's Deference to the Department of Justice in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform (Forthcoming 59 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. ___ (2017)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

One puzzle of President Obama’s presidency is why his stated commitment to criminal justice reform was not matched by actual progress. We argue that the Obama Administration’s failure to accomplish more substantial reform, even in those areas that did not require congressional action, was largely rooted in an unfortunate deference to the Department of Justice. In this Article, we document numerous examples (in sentencing, clemency, compassionate release, and forensic science) of the Department resisting commonsense criminal justice reforms that would save taxpayer dollars, help reduce mass incarceration, and maintain public safety. These examples and basic institutional design theory both point in the same direction: real criminal justice reform requires putting the right institutions in charge of criminal justice policymaking. This Article offers institutional changes that would help future presidents make the system less punitive and reduce prison populations to achieve the broad transformation that Obama desired but did not attain. A critical move is to place criminal justice policymaking in the hands of individuals who can advise the president independent of the institutional interests of prosecutors.

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