Please join us for the Donald S. Bernstein '75 Colloquium with Emily Bazelon, Senior Research Scholar in Law, Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing and Law, and Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School.
The American criminal justice system is supposed to be a contest between two equal adversaries, the prosecution and the defense, with judges ensuring a fair fight. On paper, that’s how it works. But in practice, it is increasingly prosecutors who actually call the shots. More than anyone else, they decide who goes free and who goes to prison, and even who lives and who dies. Most prosecutors do their jobs ethically and well. And yet, their outsized authority to determine punishment — which charges to bring, what plea deal to offer — accounts for much of the harsh and punitive turn of American criminal justice over the last decades. The system wasn’t designed for prosecutors to have virtually unchecked power. The shift in that direction is the missing piece in understanding convictions of innocent people and mass incarceration — and addressing both problems.