Center on the Administration of Criminal Law

Public Policy

Although scholarship and litigation can improve public policy, the Center also undertakes targeted efforts to get policymakers to read and consider its research.

Members of the Center offer their expertise on a variety of public policy issues by commenting publicly, testifying at legislative hearings and meeting with concerned Members of Congress and of state legislatures on criminal justice proposals, and meeting with elected and appointed District Attorneys and Attorney Generals, appointed United States Attorneys and other DOJ executive personnel, and defender offices on criminal justice matters.  The Center also comments on pending legislation that affects criminal justice and on legislative and policy priorities, both directly to policymakers and in op-ed pieces.

Examples of the Center engaging in the public debate by bringing its expertise to bear on various high-profile matters include:

  • On March 25, 2013, the Center, with pro bono assistance from Paul D. Clement, Esq. and D. Zachary Hudson, Esq. of Bancroft PLLC, and with research support from Center Fellows Yotam Barkai ('13) and Sam Zeitlin ('14), submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission urging the FCC to take action to lower the rates charged for interstate inmate calling services. 

  • The Center, with funding from the Public Welfare Foundation and the Ford Foundation, released “Establishing Conviction Integrity Programs in Prosecutor’s Offices: A Report of the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law’s Conviction Integrity Project.” The goal of the Conviction Integrity Project is to support prosecutors’ efforts to ensure public confidence in the convictions they obtain and to reduce the incidence of wrongful convictions. The Report is the outgrowth of the Center’s empirical research into best practices, as well as a roundtable with participants that included a number of current and former District Attorneys from across the country, representatives from the Department of Justice, and individuals from various state law enforcement agencies and research institutes. The Roundtable brought together these leading figures to develop templates that prosecutors can use to implement conviction integrity reforms in their offices. The Report emphasizes reforms that are scalable to even the smallest prosecutors’ offices. And the Report’s appendices include checklists that offices are already using to reduce errors and that could be easily modified to work in any office.

  • Faculty Director Rachel Barkow was appointed to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office's Conviction Integrity Policy Advisory Panel, a group of leading criminal justice experts that advises the Office on national best practices and evolving issues in the area of wrongful convictions. Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow testified before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law regarding proposed legislation that would prohibit former federal prosecutors from serving as or for corporate monitors in matters that they investigated or prosecuted while in government service.  He described how the proposed legislation would close a revolving door that could give rise to the apperance of self-dealing that would decrease public confidence in the Department of Justice.  Read and watch video (testimony starting at 11:48, Q and A starting at 1:20:38) of the testimony here.
  • Faculty Director Rachel E. Barkow testified before the United States Sentencing Commission and made recommendations for reforming the federal sentencing system.  Professor Barkow recommended that the Commission keep the current advisory Guidelines framework, reconsider the use of acquitted conduct to increase sentences, reevaluate its decision to set drug trafficking guideline ranges around the mandatory minimums set by Congress, and prioritize its empirical research and data analysis in setting the agenda for itself and Congress, particularly by engaging in fiscal-cost and racial-impact forecasting of changes in sentencing law, evidence-based research about what works and what does not in fighting crime and curbing recidivism, and studying the relationship between prosecutorial practices and federal sentencing outcomes.  Read the testimony here.
  • Faculty Director Professor Rachel E. Barkow testified before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection regarding the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Professor Barkow discussed, among other things, the value of including state attorney general enforcement as a counterweight to the possibility of agency capture. Read Professor Barkow's testimony here, and view video of Professor Barkow's testimony via links here.  ("Panel 2 Prepared Testimony" begins at 17:22; Professor Barkow also appears on "Panel 2 Questions.")
  • Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow submitted testimony to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in support of legislation that would prohibit life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders
  • Politico published an op-ed by Senior Fellow Anne Milgram and Faculty Director Rachel E. Barkow arguing in favor of a role for state attorneys general in policing fraud in the mortgage and banking industries, and against federal preemption of state regulation in this area 
  • Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow observed and analyzed the Guantanamo military commission proceedings as a volunteer consultant for the international human rights organization Human Rights First, examining prosecutorial discretion in Guantanamo and difficulties faced by prosecutors there in complying with their discovery and disclosure obligations, allegations of improper political influence on prosecutors, restrictions on public access to the proceedings, problems with Arabic-English interpretation of the proceedings, and the ability of defense counsel to forge effective relationships with their clients, and commenting on the interpretation problems in The Washington Post.
  • Faculty Director Professor Rachel E. Barkow's testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the future of the federal sentencing guidelines in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Blakely v. Washington.
  • Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow published an op-ed in The Washington Post commending Virgina Gov. Tim Kaine's proposal to cut incarceration costs by releasing some non-violent offenders who have been model inmates by enlarging the generally-applicable period of early release to 90 days from the present 30 days
  • The Center filed comments with the United States Sentencing Commission proposing that the Commission include in its top priorities the forecasting of the fiscal costs, and the racial and ethnic impact, of pending federal criminal legislation prior to enactment and of any proposed Commission amendment to the sentencing guidelines.  (Cited and quoted in an article by the Honorable Robert W. Sweet, United States District Judge, Southern District of New York, "Will Money Talk? The Case for a Comprehensive Cost-Benefit Analysis of the War on Drugs," 20 Stan. L. & Pol'y Rev. 229 (2009).)
  • CNN.com published an op-ed by Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow commenting that Judge Sonia Sotomayor's experience as a local prosecutor would bring to the Supreme Court a perspective on criminal law that other Justices lack
  • The Boston Herald published an op-ed by Faculty Director Rachel E. Barkow and Fellow Joshua Libling '09 recommending that Massachusetts use fiscal-cost forecasting when considering and enacting criminal legislation affecting sentencing.
  • The New York Daily News published an op-ed by Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow criticizing the leak of information regarding baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez's failed steroid test, which had been seized as part of a criminal investigation in San Francisco and was leaked in apparent violation of a court order
  • Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow participated on a post-argument panel regarding the Supreme Court's Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder case at Georgetown University Law Center
  • The Sentencing Law & Policy blog published an op-ed by Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow and Fellow Jason Richman '11 regarding the decision by the Boston United States Attorney not to prosecute public intellectual and blogger Andrew Sullivan, which argued that prosecutors should consider collateral consequences when making charging decisions
  • Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow published an op-ed on the American Constitution Society blog regarding an allegation by a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney that he was told to defend the convictions of two men whom he believed to be innocent of the murder of a bouncer outside the Palladium nightclub in New York City.
  • The American Constitution Society blog published an op-ed by Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow (with Vibhav Mittal, NYU Law '08) regarding California's ballot referendum Proposition 5.
  • The American Constitution Society blog published an op-ed by Executive Director Anthony S. Barkow criticizing the FBI's leak of an investigation into voter registration activities by the community activist group ACORN.

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