Unlocking the Black Box of Prosecution: 7 Critical Decision Points

Vera Institute of Justice LogoMuch of prosecutors’ work occurs away from the public eye; because of this, prosecution is often called the “black box” of America’s criminal justice system. In order to help unlock this black box, the Vera Institute of Justice created a tool for interested community members and prosecutors to better understand what prosecutors can do to advance equal justice. This tool includes the 7 Critical Decision Points resource, which shows points where prosecutors are particularly well-equipped to take the lead in helping to change the system, from charging through sentencing. Although the case decision points serve to educate community members about the role of prosecutors, each section is followed by key questions that community members are encouraged to ask of the prosecutors themselves. These questions can also serve as a tool for prosecutors to assess whether their offices’ policies and practices contribute to the problems of mass incarceration and racial inequity or are they are part of the solution.