Prosecutorial Reform and Local Crime Rates
27 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2021 Last revised: 10 Mar 2022
Date Written: October 29, 2021
Many communities across the United States have elected reform-minded, progressive prosecutors who seek to reduce the reach and burden of the criminal justice system. Such prosecutors have implemented reforms such as scaling back the prosecution of nonviolent misdemeanors, diverting defendants to treatment programs instead of punishment, and recommending against cash bail for defendants who might otherwise be detained pretrial. Such policies are controversial, and many worry that they could increase crime by reducing deterrent and incapacitation effects. In this paper we use variation in the timing of when these prosecutors took office, across 35 jurisdictions, to measure the effect of their policies on reported crime rates. While our estimates are imprecisely estimated, we find no significant effects of these reforms on local crime rates.
Keywords: prosecutors, crime, criminal justice reform
JEL Classification: K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation