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Policymaking by Prosecutors: The Uses of Discretion in Regulating Plea Bargaining

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 73 Issue: 6 Dated: (April-May 1990) Pages: 335-340
A P Worden
Date Published
6 pages
This analysis, based on 27 prosecutors in Georgia, examined the role of prosecutors as policymakers by focusing on plea bargaining as an important feature of criminal adjudication.
Findings revealed that values and motivations of prosecutors were complex and varied. As administrators and politicians, prosecutors had to reconcile their policy choices with organizational and political constraints. The prosecutors' plea bargaining policies were responsive to community crime problems and adapted to the level of work group cooperation and conflict in the court system. Plea bargaining policies, however, were also associated with prosecutors' personal beliefs about conflicting values of due process and crime control. Values and motivations of prosecutors in Georgia were not uniformly oriented toward crime control, with high crime rates prompting restrictive policies. Prosecutors appeared to react to genuine crime problems rather than to constituency perceptions. The analysis findings are significant because they offer insights into the complex set of motivations behind prosecutors' administrative and political decisions and thus illustrate the importance of more systematic study of prosecutors' policy choices. 31 footnotes, 1 table, 1 figure.


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