It has long been postulated that America’s mass incarceration phenomenon is driven by increased drug arrests, draconian sentencing, and the growth of a prison industry. Yet among the major players—legislators, judges, police, and prosecutors—one of these is shrouded in mystery. While laws on the books, judicial sentencing, and police arrests are all public and transparent, prosecutorial charging decisions are made behind closed doors with little oversight or public accountability. Indeed, without notice by commentators, during the last ten years or more, crime has fallen, and police have cut arrests accordingly, but prosecutors have actually increased the ratio of criminal court filings. Why?
Shima Baradarab Baughman and Megan S. Wright, Prosecutors and Mass Incarceration, 94 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1123 (2020).