Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons in Memphis wants to spend more money on more prosecutors to put more criminals behind bars–one of the 15 strategies being pursued by Operation: Safe Community, the anti-crime initiative launched in 2006, says the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The state, which provides 45 percent of the costs of local prosecutors, is seeing a decrease in expected revenue. The Memphis prosecutor’s office has been undermanned for years. Adding staff would allow the office to convert a much larger share of its cases to the so-called “vertical prosecution” method — assigning a single prosecutor or team of prosecutors to a case from beginning to end.
A public that gets most of its information about the criminal justice system from “Law & Order” might believe that’s the way it’s done, anyway. In fact, most cases are passed along from one group of prosecutors to another as they make their way from arrest to resolution. Most cases now are handled through the horizontal prosecution method, which, as Assistant District Attorney Tom Henderson has said, is “justice on the cheap (that is) worth what you pay for it.” With 1,000 cases per prosecutor under the current staff load, it makes sense to assign prosecutors to each stage of the process, from the jail intake through general sessions court, negotiations with the defense attorney, preliminary hearings, the grand jury and, eventually, criminal court.