Prosecutorial Discretion

Understanding and improving how prosecutors screen and charge criminal cases is a core component of the Deason Center's research and advocacy agenda. The Center's research in this area helps prosecutors across the nation advance sane, safe, and sustainable criminal legal reform.




Dallas County Screening and Charging Time

Could just one change at the Dallas County District Attorney's Office decrease pretrial detention, save taxpayers' money, support more crime victims, reduce prosecutors' caseloads, and help system-impacted children and families? We're going to find out.

DALLAS Project

The District Attorney Learning and Leadership through Application of Science (DALLAS) project is a Deason Center partnership with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. This powerful collaboration considers how prosecutorial reforms impact racial equity and due process, and empowers the District Attorney to make data-informed decisions.

Prosecutorial Charging Practices Project

The Prosecutorial Charging Practices Project takes a deep dive into the work of three mid-sized prosecutors' offices. The study offers a holistic account of prosecutors’ screening and charging practices, exploring how prosecutors engage with police, evaluate evidence, and assess the public interest in prosecution. Read the Center's Series Preview.

Policing Racial Disparity

The ABCs of Racial Disparity investigates racial inequity in the 2018 enforcement of low-level drug crimes in six Dallas County cities. The report concludes that Black people were overrepresented in all studied enforcement categories. Read The ABCs of Racial Disparity.



Our Publications & Resources

Fewer, Not Fairer

In 2019, police across Dallas County asked the District Attorney to prosecute fewer marijuana cases than the year before. This report examines whether the racial disparity in those cases improved at the same time. Fewer, Not Fairer shows that while the number of referrals declined, police were still more likely to refer a Black person for marijuana prosecution than a non-Black person. However, some cities achieved more fairness when their police departments almost entirely stopped requesting marijuana prosecutions altogether.

Smiegocki, V. M., Metzger, P. R., & Davies, A. L. B., Fewer, Not Fairer, The DALLAS Project, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (November 2021).

Budding Change

Budding Change explores what happened when Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot (DA Creuzot) radically changed his office’s policies about the prosecution of first-time misdemeanor marijuana cases. The report concludes that DA Creuzot’s 2019 policies were associated with significant reductions in police enforcement of marijuana misdemeanor laws. As a result, marijuana screening caseloads within the District Attorney’s Office declined substantially. Budding Change shows that prosecutorial policies can have a profound impact on policing behaviors.

Metzger, P., Smiegocki, V., & Meeks, K., Budding Change: Marijuana Prosecution Policies and Police Practices in Dallas County, 2019, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (July 2021).

The ABCs of Racial Disparity

Data show that Black and White people use marijuana at roughly equal rates. Yet in 2018, in six of Dallas County's biggest cities, Black people were vastly overrepresented in the enforcement of low-level drug crimes. With a look at enforcement trends before the election of District Attorney John Creuzot, this study launches a series of reports about how his reforms have impacted Dallas County.

Metzger, P., Meeks, K., Smiegocki, V., Brown, K., & Davies, A. L. B., The ABCs of Racial Disparity: Enforcement of Low-Level Drug Crimes in Dallas County in 2018, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (May 2021).

Webinar: Innovations in Rural Prosecution

Across the country, in all types of jurisdictions, prosecutors are adding their voices to the call for criminal justice reform. Offered as part of the STAR Justice series, this panel features prosecutors from STAR areas discussing their problem-solving initiatives and procedural justice innovations.

Report: Series Preview: Screening and Charging Practices in Three Mid-Sized Jurisdictions

Understanding how prosecutors make their screening and charging decisions is essential to criminal legal reform. This preview report is the first in a series of publications that explores the screening and charging practices of prosecutors in three mid-sized jurisdictions. Through an innovative mixed-methods empirical study, the series provides a holistic account of prosecutors’ charging practices.

Series Preview: Screening and Charging Practices in Three Mid-Sized Jurisdictions, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (February 2021).

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