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Prevention Through Community Prosecution

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1988
17 pages
Community prosecution is a new and evolving concept that is emerging as the next stage in the criminal justice changes that began with community policing and its efforts to improve crime prevention and crime control through improved relationships with citizens.
The new crime prevention strategies represent a shift from the ideology and definitions presented in the 1967 report of President Johnson's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. Community prosecution rests on the idea that prosecutors have a broader function than case processing; this idea has its origins in research conducted by the American Bar Foundation in the 1950s. In addition, the crack-cocaine epidemic inspired prosecutors to change their approaches. Community prosecution has three common elements. First, prosecutors are redefining their traditional mission to include crime prevention. Second, they are moving away from reliance on criminal law and criminal prosecution toward a problem-oriented prosecution strategy. Third, they are collaborating more closely with other criminal justice agencies, the private sector, and citizens. The Safe Neighborhood Initiatives in and around Boston represent a version of community prosecution that has received strong support from citizens and police. Community prosecution has taken different forms in other locations. Accumulating information indicates that such community partnerships in crime prevention are effective. Nevertheless, issues needing attention include the potential for government abuse of power, net widening, and inadequate attention to the rights of the accused and the rights of persons arrested. Public exposure of prosecutors' work and guidelines to regulate that work could prevent abuses. Overall, the new approaches bode well for the future of law enforcement and public safety.

Date Published: December 1, 1988