This policy practicum will focus on the gender and racial diversity of prosecutors’ offices in California. Although police departments have collected and reported data on racial and gender diversity for decades, no similar information has been publicly available for prosecutors’ offices, despite the longstanding belief that diversity is important for criminal justice decision makers. Recent controversies around the country about the investigation and prosecution of killings by police officers have only underscored the continued importance of attention to the role that race plays in the administration of justice in our country. This practicum builds off data collected from county prosecutors’ offices in California to start a national conversation on prosecutorial diversity and how it affects decision-making and operations of justice. Students will expand the study with case studies of five counties (Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Riverside and San Diego) to better understand the role diversity plays in the District Attorney offices in those counties, as well as the challenges to and promising practices towards achieving diversity. They will also develop policy recommendations to require prosecutors’ offices nationwide to collect, share, and make public demographic information with a centralized federal entity.
Stanford Law School students (from the 2014-2015 Practicum) worked with the Stanford Criminal Justice Center to make the demographics of California prosecutors available for the first time. Data that the team gathered from prosecutors’ offices in 52 of California’s 58 counties, representing nearly 98 percent of the state’s population, found that whites, who comprise slightly more than 38 percent of the state’s population, hold nearly 70 percent of prosecutors’ jobs.
We released the report, Stuck in the ’70s, analyzing our findings in Summer 2015. Building off these findings, in Fall 2015, with the assistance of five law students enrolled in a practicum (2015-2016), we conducted case studies on five counties to better understand the importance of and strategies for diversifying prosecutors’ offices.