Engaging in practitioner-oriented technical assistance for best-practice approaches to the administration of justice, and applying a mixed-methods research lens to build knowledge about the practices of prosecutors and defense counsel and inform the policies that guide these legal system actors.

Little is known about how judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel make decisions—whether pretrial release, charging, conviction, or sentencing. These decisions have important implications for people and communities. Some prosecutors are rethinking their decision-making, leading or playing critical roles in systems change initiatives in their communities to reexamine the use of jail and prison, engage the community in problem-solving and policy-setting, and define success by measures other than conviction rates. To be “smart on crime,” prosecutors are looking to evidence-informed strategies, technology-driven intelligence and evidence gathering, and state-of-the art analytic approaches to address pressing crime issues. Like their counterparts in the prosecutor’s office, defense attorneys face overwhelming caseloads yet often lack resources that are on par with prosecutors’ and sufficient time to conduct investigations, properly review discovery material, communicate with clients, and prepare for court. This imbalance compromises the ability of defense attorneys to fulfil their ethical and constitutional responsibility to vigorously advocate for their clients. Innovative case processing strategies used by courtroom actors, including the use of technology, require investigation of their impact on victims, defendants, and the community, and development of feedback loops to inform performance of system stakeholders. Additionally, with increasing awareness of the benefits of evidence-based and evidence-informed practices, there is tremendous need to translate research into practice for courtroom actors. Finally, the need to investigate and address systemic racial disparities in the criminal legal system calls for deep study of policies that govern the practices of courtroom actors.

In the RTI Center for Courts and Corrections Research, we engage with practitioner organizations to assist prosecutors and defense counsel in planning, implementing, and evaluating case processing strategies, including innovative technologies designed to assist investigation and analysis of evidence. Our skilled technical assistance providers help practitioners develop and implement policy grounded in legal and scientific research. A key aspect of our technical assistance approach is the development of learning communities to encourage peer-to-peer knowledge transfer among practitioners. Our research team designs and conducts comprehensive studies of the implementation and impact of approaches, like diversion programs, designed to improve outcomes for justice-involved individuals by linking them to services they need in lieu of a jail stay or criminal conviction.

researcher working on data reports and graphs

National Survey of Prosecutors

RTI is conducting the Bureau of Justice Statistics National Survey of Prosecutors, which provides national estimates on the administration and operational characteristics of prosecutor offices that handle felony cases in criminal courts. We collaborate with state and national district and prosecuting attorney associations to collect and disseminate information on the characteristics and caseloads of prosecutors’ offices across the United States.

Interior of legislative building

Innovative Prosecution Solutions

RTI collaborates to provide training and technical assistance to prosecutors and their research partners as they implement, evaluate, and sustain strategies to address critical public safety issues in their jurisdictions. The focus of our training and technical assistance is to improve the quality of justice by evaluating, refining, and promoting effective evidence-based prosecution practices and policies that break down information silos, improve public trust and confidence in the justice system, and increase public safety.

A researcher interviews a man at his home

Justice for All

RTI and its partners provide training and technical assistance to state and local criminal justice stakeholders as they work to improve rights delineated under the Sixth Amendment. Through direct consultation and coaching, peer-to-peer learning, mentorship, webinars, and customized resource materials, our training and technical assistance centers on supporting jurisdictions to identify needs and develop, implement, and assess interventions to address needs with respect to ensuring Sixth Amendment rights.