Friday, May 11, 2018
The article highlights how the Department of Justice and its leadership can change even long-standing prosecutorial orthodoxy and prevailing approaches when they set out a clear mission and empower and guide prosecutors in implementing it. To decrease the number of federal prisoners, the Obama administration adopted a tri-partite strategy that included prevention and re-entry, co-equal with prosecutions. Yet the collection and analysis of relevant data continued to fall short which privileged old practices that emphasized the number of convictions and prison years imposed. A substantial investment in data is needed to support and reinforce a shift away from prison terms. Perhaps most importantly, the article questions the role federal prosecutors should play at a time prisons remain overcrowded despite a historically low crime rate. The criminal justice paradigm may not be an appropriate avenue for addressing social problems.