Prosecutors and Mass Incarceration

65 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2020 Last revised: 24 Aug 2021

See all articles by Shima Baradaran Baughman

Shima Baradaran Baughman

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Megan S. Wright

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law

Date Written: September 8, 2020


It has long been postulated that America’s mass incarceration phenomenon is driven by increased drug arrests, draconian sentencing, and the growth of a prison industry. Yet among the major players—legislators, judges, police, and prosecutors—one of these is shrouded in mystery. While laws on the books, judicial sentencing, and police arrests are all public and transparent, prosecutorial charging decisions are made behind closed doors with little oversight or public accountability. Indeed, without notice by commentators, during the last ten years or more, crime has fallen, and police have cut arrests accordingly, but prosecutors have actually increased the ratio of criminal court filings. Why?

Keywords: prosecutors; mass incarceration; charging; crime; supreme court; police; arrest; sentencing; prison; randomized controlled trial

Suggested Citation

Baughman, Shima Baradaran and Wright, Megan, Prosecutors and Mass Incarceration (September 8, 2020). Southern California Law Review, Forthcoming, University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 392, Penn State Law Research Paper No. 20-2021, Available at SSRN:

Shima Baradaran Baughman (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States

Megan Wright

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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