A new think tank focused on the training and academic study of prosecutors will be started this month by John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, reports the Wall Street Journal. The goal of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution is to serve as a “national laboratory” for changes in policy and practices for prosecutors. State prosecutors handle more than 90 percent of the nation’s criminal cases. Their decisions on charges “and how to handle delicate cases shape policing, court dockets and prison populations,” the Journal says. There are about 2,700 chief local prosecutors nationwide, who are nearly all elected.
“Prosecutors are unique in that they exercise that high level of power within the system, but their relationship to the rest of the system is poorly understood,” said Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and co-chairman of the new institute’s advisory board. The other co-chairman, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., said, “Criminal justice is on the front page and at the front of the minds of people around the country,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., a co-chairman of the institute advisory board. “We need to seize our narrative, own it and write it.” Vance will support the institute's first three years with $3 million from settlements with banks accused of wrongdoing. The institute plans to address many issues, including racial disparities and biases in the criminal-justice system, disclosure of grand-jury proceedings, plea bargaining and pretrial diversion.