Decentralized Criminal Justice: The Evolution of Community Prosecution in the United States
Finchem, Benjamin J.
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This research project will proceed in arguing in favor of community prosecution's effectiveness by initially outlining the process of traditional prosecution of criminal offenses and where that process fails in terms of both controlling crime and in abiding the negative effects of crime on a neighborhood's social dynamic. This I will then define community prosecution proper and outline its structural elements conducive to alleviating the trend of neighborhood blight and to improve the working relationship between citizens and law enforcement authorities. Using a variety of case studies of specific program initiatives used in different locations throughout the United States, I will then proceed by displaying the ways in which community prosecution succeeds in solving problems expressed as negative aspects of a neighborhood's environment and by showing how forming partnerships between public and private entities within a community augments the positive efforts of community prosecution. The last section of this project, I will demonstrate how community prosecution methods are put into practice and how in practice they are successful in achieving their aims of neighborhood improvement and crime reduction. This will be done first of all by analyzing statistics that outline the successes of community prosecution by comparing crime data obtained from field studies in both Kalamazoo County, Michigan and the State of California in terms of number of crimes reported, calls to 911 services, etc. before and after program implementation in addition to specific trends observed that show the greater the action of community prosecution efforts, in the case of the California study, the more crime is reduced. The course of my research then goes on to indicate that community prosecution efforts in the community, as specified in the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of a curfew/truancy control program in Kalamazoo and gang control and alternative sentencing initiatives in Travis County, Texas, are effective in both addressing community concerns about crime, neighborhood well-being and improvement of relations between local residents and law enforcement.