Most scholarship on prosecutors in the United States is diagnostic, prescriptive, or both; the motivating questions are, What is the problem with prosecutors, and how do we fix it? Answering those questions has been difficult, in part because there are at least seven different problems with American prosecutors. Six of those problems are relatively familiar: the power of prosecutors, the discretion they exercise, the illegality in which they too often are found to have engaged, the punitive ideology that shapes many of their practices, their often-frustrating unaccountability, and organizational inertia within prosecutors’ offices. These problems intersect, so they are difficult to address separately. The seventh problem is discussed less often but may be the most basic: the ambiguity of the prosecutor's role. That problem needs to be understood as well if progress is to be made addressing the other six.


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