Thursday, November 8, 2018
In the United States, elected district attorneys preside over 90% of all felony cases. Using a newly-collected dataset of district attorney elections, I show that the election of a Republican district attorney leads to a 10% increase in total sentenced months/capita, largely driven by extensive margin changes. I also find evidence that black district attorneys lead to reductions in incarceration levels, driven almost entirely by drug offenses. I conclude by showing that the way prosecutorial districts are drawn increases the probability that high-crime cities are represented by Republican and white district attorneys affecting both local and aggregate levels of incarceration.