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Debt Sentence: How Fines and Fees Hurt Working Families

Across the United States, courts impose fines as a punishment for minor traffic infractions, municipal code violations, misdemeanors, and felonies. State and local governments then tax people with fees, surcharges, and other costs used to fund the justice system and other government services. This study by the Wilson Center and the Fines and Fees Justice Center is the first to present a comprehensive, national overview of how court-imposed fines and fees are affecting people across the country. (2023)

Equity in Criminal Outcomes

May 15, 2023

Error Aversions and Due Process

This study examines national surveys sampling more than 12,000 people, finding that a majority of Americans consider false acquittals and false convictions to be errors of equal magnitude. Most people are unwilling to err on the side of letting the guilty go free to avoid convicting the innocent. Indeed, a sizeable minority view false acquittals as worse than false convictions. By: Brandon L. Garrett and Gregory Mitchell — Michigan Law Review (2023)

Equity in Criminal Outcomes

April 21, 2023

North Carolina Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD): Considerations for Optimizing Eligibility and Referral

This study used mixed-methods data collection and both quantitative and qualitative analyses to evaluate policy, program and practice implications in NC LEAD programs. By Allison R. Gilbert, Reah Siegel, Michele M. Easter, Meret S. Hofer, Josie Caves Sivaraman, Deniz Ariturk, Jeffrey W. Swanson, Marvin S. Swartz, Ruth Wygle & Grace Feng — Law and Contemporary Problems (2023)

Behavioral Health Needs

March 21, 2023

Understanding Plea Bargaining in a New Progressive DA’s Office: How Line Prosecutors Understand and Implement Progressive Goals Through Plea Decisions

This study involved qualitative interviews with all the assistant district attorneys (ADAs, N = 19) in a mid-sized office with a newly elected progressive DA. Interviews discussed how ADAs implemented office policies and progressive goals in plea bargaining. Prosecutors described working to implement five main progressive goals in their plea decisions: (a) dismissing low-level drug possession charges; (b) avoiding over-penalization, particularly for “victimless” crimes; (c) declining to prosecute weak cases; (d) encouraging open communication with defense; and (e) promoting racial equity. Prosecutors’ descriptions of how these goals guided case decisions illuminate how progressive prosecution may affect the criminal justice system through plea bargaining. By: Catherine A. Grodensky William E. Crozier Elizabeth J. Gifford Brandon L. Garrett — Criminal Justice and Behavior (2023)

Policing and Behavioral Health Conditions

This editorial essay opens the special issue of Law and Contemporary Problems guest edited by Jeffrey Swanson, Marvin Swartz and Brandon Garrett (2023).

Behavioral Health Needs

Gun Violence in Durham, NC, 2017-2021: Investigation and Court Processing of Fatal and Nonfatal Shootings

This report, conducted in collaboaration with the Sanford School of Public Policy analyzes the Durham Police Department’s recent performance in investigating shootings, both fatal and nonfatal. (2023)

Accuracy of Evidence in Criminal Cases

Monitoring Pretrial Reform In Harris County: Sixth Report Of The Court-Appointed Monitor

Wilson Center Faculty Director Brandon Garrett serves as independent monitor for the landmark federal bail reform settlement in Harris County, TX. This first report by the monitor team describes the first three years of work evaluating the implementation of the misdemeanor bail reforms in Harris County, Texas. (2023)

Equity in Criminal Outcomes

March 1, 2023

North Carolina v. Price

This amicus brief argues that a non-independent, “surrogate” expert witness violates Rule 703 of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence and the Confrontation clause of the sixth amendment when they simply parrot or read language of the original analyst report.

Accuracy of Evidence in Criminal Cases

January 27, 2023

Plea Tracking in the Durham County District Attorney’s Office

The Wilson Center and the Durham County District Attorney’s Office conducted a collaborative, data-driven effort to better understand the plea negotiation process. This report describes data on 325 felony cases that were entered into the tracker over 249 business days, from April 12, 2021, to April 12, 2022. (2023)

Equity in Criminal Outcomes

January 21, 2023

The Law and Science of Eyewitness Identifications

This article examines how legal actors—state and federal courts, state lawmakers, and police agencies—have responded to research on eyewitness evidence. Thomas Albright & Brandon L. Garrett, The Law and Science of Eyewitness Evidence, 102 Boston Univ. L. Rev. 511 (2022).

Accuracy of Evidence in Criminal Cases

December 15, 2022