• Jun 16, 2017

Redefining the Role of the Prosecutor within the Community

  • 9:15am - 4:30pm
  • Wasserstein Hall - Room 2019 Milstein West, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA

Join the Houston Institute and the ACLU of Massachusetts for a daylong conference at Harvard Law School titled: “Redefining the Role of the Prosecutor within the Community.”

Prosecutors are key actors within our current justice system and possess an enormous amount of discretion about who is charged, for what, and the severity of the sentence received. Additionally, prosecutors wield power in state legislatures, in determining how tax dollars are spent, and in prioritizing rehabilitation or retribution in these decisions.

Yet, we know surprisingly little about how these decisions are made, why, and the pressures and incentives that inform prosecutorial actions and cultures. Grassroots organizations, justice reform advocates and scholars have begun to take a closer look at the impact of prosecutorial decisions in building historic rates of incarceration, and are defining a more expansive set of metrics for measuring their performance.

In the morning, we will identify and discuss new models for prosecution and hear from former prosecutors about their experiences and insights. We will then hear brief presentations from economist John Pfaff about his research regarding the impact of prosecutorial decisions on incarceration rates, and from Measures for Justice on new ways to measure “justice outcomes” within a community. Our afternoon panel and ensuing discussion will focus on creating and implementing models for community engagement and oversight.

This event is free and open to the public.


Welcome and Introductions

Panel 1

Coming soon

Panel 2

John Pfaff

Caroline Sarnoff

Panel 3

8:30 am—9:15 am

  • Continental Breakfast, Registration

9:15 am—9:30 am

  • Welcome

9:30 am—10:45 am

10:45 am—11:00 am

  • Break

11:00 am—11:30 am

  • Presentation: Initial Findings and Themes from Interviews with Prosecutors
    • Laura R. McNeal, University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law
    • Johanna Wald, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice

11:30 am—12:30 pm

  • Panel 2: Former Prosecutors Talk about Professional Incentives and Cultures, and the Challenges of Pushing Reform from Within

12:30 pm—1:30 pm

  • Lunch (Provided)
  • Presentation: Implications of Research/Data on the Impact of Prosecutorial Charging Decisions over Past 20 Years
  • Presentation: New Opportunities to Measure/Calculate Justice Outcomes at the County Level

1:45 pm—3:15 pm

3:30 pm—4:30 pm

  • Action Plan, Next Steps

4:30 pm—5:00 pm

  • Reception with Light Refreshments


Harvard Law Today article

Prison Policy Initiative blog about the conference