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As should be clear, this is less a book review and more an in-depth exploration of a key point Professor Barkow makes in Prisoners of Politics as applied to the federal criminal justice system. Sure, we need expertise in order to make data-driven criminal justice policy decisions--as Barkow puts it, “[t]he key is to create and foster an institutional framework that prioritizes data” and “expertise” so as to “create incentives for key decisionmakers to be accountable for real results” (pp. 14-15). But in creating reforms, the kindof expertise is also important. Many federal policymakers currently view the DOJ and NAAUSA as possessing the most salient expertise on all criminal justice matters. This Review, I hope, calls that premise into serious doubt.

In Part I of this Review, I explain how the DOJ and NAAUSA have had a vise-like grip on federal policymakers when deciding criminal justice issues. In Part II, I detail their lobbying efforts in favor of longer sentences and against any reforms that would reduce sentences, and I explain why their claims against reform are flawed. Part III addresses the DOJ's and the NAAUSA's active opposition to criminal justice policies set by the presidents whom they serve because federal prosecutors seek to retain power to the exclusion of all other policy goals.

If we want a federal criminal justice system that reflects the goals of public safety, fairness, and equal enforcement, then federal policymakers should give less deference to the views of federal prosecutors because they do not possess the requisite expertise or will to move our policies toward those ends.

Publication Citation

Michican Law Review, Vol. 118, Issue 6, 1181.