Date of Award
Public Policy Leadership
Justice is supposed to be a consistent, fair ideal of our society. If an individual is going to face punishment, there should be reasons why they receive the punishment they do, and two people who commit similar offenses should be punished similarly. These societal ideals are also embraced by the legal profession. Unfortunately, the current practice of plea bargains creates potential problems for our ability to satisfy that ideal of justice. Prosecutors have significant discretion in offering plea bargains. This discretion opens the door for potential arbitrariness. One way for prosecutors to combat that arbitrariness is by having a structured process they follow when deciding whether to offer pleas and what to offer. But prosecutors would also need to be held accountable to that process to ensure justice is done. In this thesis, I interviewed six prosecutors, primarily from the Southeastern United States, to determine whether they have a structured process they follow in determining plea bargains and how they could be kept accountable to that process. I find that while none of the prosecutors had a detailed, structured process they followed, most of them had considerations they utilized to evaluate each case on an individual basis. I also found that prosecutors are in favor of internal accountability measures and less in favor of external measures. Based on my research, I recommend a variety of solutions that address the possible need for a process, consistency, and internal and external accountability measures.
Brewer, Emma, "Arbitrariness and Accountability in Plea Bargaining" (2023). Honors Theses. 3009.
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