Place Matters in Prosecution
30 Pages Posted: 3 May 2017 Last revised: 22 May 2017
Date Written: 2017
In this essay, we argue that scholarship about prosecution often overlooks the importance of place as a variable affecting how prosecution works. Our citation ranking of the empirical scholarship about prosecutors, published over the last half century, demonstrates that scholars have focused disproportionately on the largest urban offices and have drawn conclusions about prosecution based on those sites. We believe that those large urban offices are not typical of the working environment for most state prosecutors. Compared to smaller and less urban offices, the largest offices produce persistently different case outcomes, experience relatively high turnover rates, and tend to be only weakly influenced by courtroom workgroups. Researchers and readers should therefore tread cautiously before they generalize about American prosecutor behavior based on studies of single large offices. Instead, we should think about prosecution offices as a collection of types, where each group is characterized by a set of default presumptions based on a recurring set of features, with some features common to all groups, others that are more group-specific, and still other features that are site-specific. The reference list of empirical scholarship about American prosecutors that we generated is included as an appendix to the essay.
Keywords: Criminal Law and Procedure
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