Revisiting the Role of Federal Prosecutors in Times of Mass Imprisonment

11 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2018

Date Written: February 12, 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.

Keywords: Data, Discretion, Prevention, Prosecution, Re-Entry, Socialization

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Demleitner, Nora V., Revisiting the Role of Federal Prosecutors in Times of Mass Imprisonment (February 12, 2018). 30 Federal Sentencing Reporter, 165, 2018; Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2018-11. Available at SSRN:

Nora V. Demleitner (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University ( email )

204 W Washington St
Lexington, VA 24450
United States

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