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Document Type

Essay

Abstract

“Progressive prosecution” has injected new life into criminal justice reform. This trend, which calls for less punishment, less prosecution of many lower-level crimes, and more diversion programs, has taken hold in large cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and Houston, as well as in smaller rural districts. Despite the hype, however, progressive prosecution has its limitations. This article discusses four of those limitations and analyzes their effect on progressive prosecution’s likelihood of success in both urban and rural districts. Although many factors constrain progressive prosecution, this article addresses two types: internal and external. Part One discusses internal constraints, including the traditional motivations of individual prosecutors and prosecutors’ reliance upon “line” or assistant prosecutors. Part Two addresses external constraints such as the police and availability of resources. Taken together, Parts One and Two emphasize that an evaluation of progressive prosecution’s merits must take a nuanced, contextual perspective.

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