The role of the prosecutor is often thought to end with a conviction. The prosecution, after all, is complete. But accepting this view is self-defeating for prosecutors and detrimental to a criminal justice system. Prosecutors can continue influencing the criminal justice process post-conviction and use this power to push the justice system in a more productive direction.
A more nuanced and assertive post-conviction role for prosecutors can begin even while an individual’s sentence continues to run. This includes efforts to wield the powers of the office to improve conditions of incarceration, nudge community supervision systems to make it easier for individuals to succeed, and even potentially modify the sentence itself through forward-looking parole policies.
Prosecutors can similarly take positive strides following a sentence’s conclusion. Conviction integrity units mean that prosecutors need not surrender their desire for just convictions simply because the conviction has entered. While the rehabilitation of an individual is already typically a prosecutorial aim, the ability to weigh in on expungement means that prosecutors can likewise help rehabilitate a person’s criminal record — a key to future success.
A conviction ends a prosecution but it should not foreclose future action by prosecutors. Prosecutors maintain too many vital interests in the success of defendants to abdicate a post-conviction role and while their power is more limited after the conviction enters, they still possess enough to influence the system for the better.
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