WASHINGTON (April 22, 2020) – Prosecutors across the country have shown the incredible potential of prosecutorial reform. However, they cannot reach these heights alone. Legislatures must get involved by rewriting the law and adjusting appropriations to ensure that prosecutors have the tools, authority and discretion necessary to transform prosecution.

In a new policy short, R Street Resident Senior Fellow of Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties Lars Trautman points out a critical component of prosecutorial reform: improving the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

He finds that internal policies go a long way to this end, but legislative action is still required to alter laws that place undue burdens on prosecutors, such as those that criminalize minor conduct, require prosecutors to rule on local police actions and interfere with a defendant’s juvenile status.

He says that prosecutors do not operate on an island. They are dependent on a host of outside actors and supports in order to achieve their goals. Key external partners like public defenders and programs like comprehensive data collection require legislative action to successfully support prosecutorial reform efforts.

He concludes that, “Prosecutorial efforts can only realize their lofty potential for positive change with the active and enduring support of state legislatures.”

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