Texas Southern University’s Center for Justice Research (CJR) has been awarded a nearly $600,000 grant to rigorously study prosecutor diversions and provide greater awareness and insights into the decisions made every day by prosecutors across the United States. This is part of a $7.4 million pledge by Houston-based Arnold Ventures.
CJR’s project is one of 14 projects that will research 40 prosecutor offices across 19 states, and across the ideological spectrum, to build evidence on the impact of prosecutorial decision-making. The project includes a cost-benefit analysis of pretrial diversion programs, measuring outcomes from prosecutorial recommendations on bail and detention, and research into prosecutors’ efforts to reduce racial disparities in the criminal legal system.
“This project centers an interdisciplinary research team dedicated to rigorously studying prosecutor decision-making,” said Dr. Howard Henderson, TSU Professor and founding director of CJR. “Through this work, we have the opportunity to provide evidence that will help prosecution better understand community-based alternatives to incarceration.”
Researchers with Texas Southern University, along with Claremont Graduate University and Justice System Partners, will analyze the cost and benefits of prosecutor diversion programs compared to traditional case processing, looking at five programs in rural and urban prosecutors’ offices in Colorado, California, and Texas.
“Until now, prosecutorial discretion has been opaque and misunderstood,” said Kristin Bechtel, director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures. “Research and transparency can help us understand the effects of prosecutors’ decision-making.”
Arnold Ventures is specifically focused on how prosecutors can use their discretion to promote racial equity, transparency, and data-driven decision-making, use punitive measures sparingly, and prioritize a holistic approach to community safety.
“This support will help inform policy and practices and expand our understanding of how to build safe and racially just outcomes,” said Rebecca Silber, director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures. “It will also lift up the research-prosecutor-community partnerships that sit at the core of these projects and are critical to building safety and justice.”
Other universities that received grants for this research include Harvard University and Indiana University.