A timely new article from CCRC board member Nora V. Demleitner, law professor at Washington and Lee University, considers the central role of prosecutors in determining who goes to jail and prison and how long they stay there. Demleitner reviews—as a “case study of prosecutorial authority”—prosecutors’ actions to reduce confined populations during the COVID-19 crisis. While prosecutors’ key role in charging and sentencing at the front end of a criminal case is well-established, in ordinary times their influence in its later stages, including in prison release decisions, is not so obvious. Professor Demleitner shows how the pandemic “highlights the tools prosecutors have at their disposal and how they can directly impact the size of the criminal justice system.” This in turn leads her to consider how “prosecutorial thinking” focused on public safety as opposed to public health “increasingly influences other branches of government” even in the midst of a pandemic.
Professor Demleitner’s article, “State Prosecutors at the Center of Mass Imprisonment and Criminal Justice Reform,” will be published in the April 2020 issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter. The abstract is included below: