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Prosecutorial Discretion in Probation Revocations

Empty American Style Courtroom. Supreme Court of Law and Justice Trial Stand. Courthouse Before Civil Case Hearing Starts. Grand Wooden Interior with Judge's Bench, Defendant's and Plaintiff's Tables.
Exploring the prosecutor’s role in setting supervision conditions and in the decisions made regarding those who violate them
  • Client
    Arnold Ventures LLC
  • Dates
    October 2021-December 2023

Challenge

Additional information is needed about the prosecutor's role in probation decisions.

The U.S. courtroom workgroup is comprised of criminal prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judicial officer. To date, we continue to lack a dynamic understanding of formal and informal decision-making within the workgroup and across workgroup actors. For example, when persons on probation are faced with revocation, little is known about the prosecutor’s role in the revocation process and considerations in deciding whether individuals who violate a term or condition of their probation sentence will have to serve the balance of their sentence in jail.

Response

NORC and partners will conduct a national study of prosecutors’ role in probation decisions. 

With funding from Arnold Ventures, the Justice System Partners (JSP), NORC at the University of Chicago, and Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP) will explore this issue by specifically looking at:

  • The authority granted to prosecutor offices via state statutes
  • How prosecutor offices interpret relevant state statutes
  • The role of prosecutor offices in probation revocation decision-making
  • The relationship of prosecutor offices and probation departments.

JSP, NORC, and FJP will conduct a national scan of state statutes, a state-by-state survey of prosecutor offices, in-depth interviews with prosecutors, and will host a convening of prosecutors.

NORC will lead the survey of prosecutor offices. All prosecutor offices within the U.S. will be invited to complete a survey via web, phone, or mail that asks questions about the role of the prosecutors’ office in setting conditions of supervision and deciding the outcome for individuals who violate their probation supervision.

Result

Findings from this study will inform our understanding of the role of the prosecutor in probation revocations.

NORC will compile data from the survey and in-depth interviews into a summary document describing the decision-making framework prosecutors currently use to make probation revocation decisions.

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