Executive Session Papers

Prosecutors, ReEntry, and Public Safety

Cyrus R. Vance Jr., District Attorney, Manhattan

Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President, The Fortune Society

Courtney M. Oliva, Executive Director, Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, New York University

The vast majority of people incarcerated in state prison – at least 95 percent – will be released back to their communities. Nationwide, roughly 641,000 people were released from state and federal prisons in 2015. Although fewer people are returning to prison, the research still suggests that returning individuals face a host of barriers and challenges to reintegrating and rejoining their communities. These obstacles can create a cycle of criminal justice involvement leading to long-term negative public safety and justice outcomes.

Prosecutors must zealously advocate for holding individuals accountable while also aiming to prepare those who come through the criminal justice system for reentry. This reimagining of a prosecutor’s duty requires them to recognize and champion the twin aims of long-term public safety and equity.

Prosecutors, Democracy, and Justice

Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures

Carter Stewart, Managing Director, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation

Allison Goldberg, Policy Advisor, Institute for Innovation in Prosecution

"Prosecutors are uniquely positioned to demonstrate that criminal justice reform is compatible with, and in fact essential to, public safety," write the authors in Prosecutors, Democracy, and Justice. This paper asks two questions at the center of the current criminal justice reform movement: how should prosecutors be evaluated on their campaign promises to be agents of change? And how should the public hold prosecutors accountable for meeting the reform imperative? To address these questions, the authors analyze how prosecutors can use their dynamic leadership position and significant discretion to unwind the machinery of punitive excess, promote equity, and affirm the human dignity of all impacted by the justice system, while enhancing public safety. The paper offers guidance for prosecutors to orient their strategies and a framework for communities to hold them to account.

Prosecutors and Officer-Involved Fatalities

Roy L. Austin, Jr., Partner, Harris, Wiltshire, & Grannis LLP

Valerie Bell, Mother of Sean Bell, Author of Just 23

John J. Choi, County Attorney, Ramsey County, MN

J. Scott Thomson, Chief of Police, Camden County, NJ

Allison Goldberg, Policy Advisor, Institute for Innovation in Prosecution

This paper uplifts the interconnected stories of three people directly impacted by officer-involved fatalities: Valerie Bell, whose son, Sean Bell, was killed by NYPD in 2006; John Choi, who brought charges against a police officer for the death of Philando Castile, the first such charges in Minnesota history; and Roy L. Austin, Jr., a former federal civil rights attorney and Deputy Assistant to President Obama, who is currently representing a family whose son was killed by police. As Chief of Police J. Scott Thomson, of Camden, New Jersey, writes in the foreword: This paper "tells the stories of those directly affected by this issue on all sides. It shows how there is an individual and family behind each statistic ... and the tangible consequences of a loss of life and a lack of transparency or accountability. Such shortfalls shake the foundation of our democracy and impugn the legitimacy of society’s guardians. This paper sets the pace of urgency and gives practical guidance for prosecutors, police, and communities to address these tragedies."

Prosecutors and Crime Survivors

Jean Peters Baker, County Prosecutor, Kansas City, MO

Lenore Anderson, Executive Director, Californians for Safety and Justice

This paper proposes that to truly serve the interests of public safety and better address the needs of crime survivors, prosecutors must look beyond their traditional responsibilities of filing indictments and seeking convictions, and engage directly with communities. Rather than relying on police or community members alone to address public safety problems outside of formally charged cases, prosecutors need to expand their role and take on new, nontraditional responsibilities. Although prosecutors must maintain their role in holding accountable those who commit crimes, they must also reimagine their service to survivors of crimes for whom formal criminal charges are never filed. At stake is not only public safety, but also the community’s trust in the legitimacy of our criminal justice and public safety systems.

Prosecution and Public Defense

Roy L. Austin, Jr., Partner, Harris, Wiltshire, & Grannis LLP

Kirk Bloodsworth, Interim Executive Director, Witness to Innocence

Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, Miami Dade, FL

Allison Goldberg, Policy Advisor, Institute for Innovation in Prosecution

There is no shortage of literature about the crisis of public defense, yet there has been a limited focus on the role of prosecutors in ensuring adequate counsel for the accused. With discretion over law enforcement priorities, charging, pretrial detention recommendations, sentencing recommendations, and plea conditions, a prosecutor’s decisions affect a case at every stage of the criminal justice process. As democratically elected officials and the chief local law enforcement officer, prosecutors are among the most powerful stakeholders in the criminal justice system and have the means and the mandate to use their platform to advocate for strong defense.

In Prosecution and Public Defense, Roy L. Austin, Jr., former federal prosecutor and Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama; Kirk Bloodsworth, death row exoneree and advocate; Carlos J. Martinez, Miami-Dade (FL) Public Defender; and Allison Goldberg, IIP Policy Advisor, outline why the right to counsel is central to prosecutors' mission, and ten concrete actions prosecutors can take to ensure this constitutional right. 

Read the Executive Summary here.

Prosecutors and Frequent Utilizers

John J. Choi, County Attorney, Ramsey County, MN

Bob Gualtieri, Sheriff, Pinellas County, FL

Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures

Allison Goldberg, Policy Advisor, Institute for Innovation in Prosecution

Criminal justice involvement is often the culmination of unmet needs, according to an increasing body of research, testimony, and other evidence. For many individuals who are arrested and charged, a combination of challenges – including mental illness, substance use, poverty, and trauma – can lead to frequent stays in the local jail, emergency room, and homeless shelter. But very few of these stays lead to adequate care or address long-term needs. Rather, social systems – criminal justice, health, and housing, for example – traditionally exist in silos and operate on an “event-by-event basis,” with little coordination between them about how to address the overlapping populations they serve.

Prosecutors and Frequent Utilizers outlines a new paradigm about how prosecutors can better serve the needs of people who frequently interact with the criminal justice and other social systems. Using this paradigm, prosecutors can devise and implement collaborative, data-driven, and community-centered solutions that better serve the needs of all who are impacted by crime, without further extending the reach of the criminal justice system.

Race and Prosecution

Angela J. Davis, Law Professor at American University Washington College of Law

John Chisholm, District Attorney, Milwaukee, WI

David Noble, Communications Fellow, Institute for Innovation in Prosecution

Every action that a prosecutor’s office takes is colored by this country’s historical record of oppressing racial minorities. In its present state the criminal justice system both reflects and exacerbates our societal ills. Prosecutors seeking to address systemic disproportionality and disparity must first come to appreciate how these phenomena came to be. 

In Race and Prosecution Angela J. Davis, Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law, John Chisholm, Milwaukee (WI) District Attorney, and David Noble, Communications Fellow with the IIP, aims to unearth the roots of racial inequality in the United States, discuss how those roots produced racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and provide guidance on how the prosecutor’s office can transform those disparities into positive change in policy and practice.

Prosecution that Earns Community Trust

Dan Satterberg, Prosecuting Attorney, King County, WA

Ronald Wright, Needham Yancey Gulley Professor of Criminal Law, Wake Forest University

“A prosecutor’s duties go beyond respectful treatment of victims; prosecutors must also inform and include the entire community as they create more effective accountability measures for low-level crimes and juvenile misconduct. Public safety is something that prosecutors must co-produce with their communities. It is not something they can simply deliver to the public.”

Prosecution That Earns Community Trust offers a playbook for newly-elected and veteran prosecutors alike to strengthen dialogue and trust with their communities, develop metrics that "look beyond conviction rates," and co-produce community-centered standards of public safety and well-being.