Vote: Mixed between publish pending minor or major changes
I am fully in support of pieces that qualitatively explore how prosecutors think about and do their jobs. The authors’ focus on prosecutorial perceptions of the value of data is new – so for that reason, this piece makes a good contribution. The writing is clear, and the piece is well-organized. That said, a few things require attention before it should be published.
The title is slanted – it focuses on just one subset of the comments about the value of data rather than on the query overall, and it highlights attitudes about racial disparities that appear unconnected to the core question about the value of data. I suggest the authors change it to something more neutral, like “Assessing Prosecutors’ Attitudes Toward Data-Informed Decision-Making.”
The two subsets should have parallel nomenclature. “Pro-data” and “data-hesitant” are not parallel forms of expression. I would suggest “data-positive” instead of “pro-data.”
The literature review is underinclusive and is biased toward pieces produced in the last few years. A lot of important qualitative work about prosecutors was produced earlier. Moreover, a lot of important qualitative work has been published in law reviews – in addition to the social science journals on which the authors focus. The authors should engage with Utz’s book Settling the Facts; Heumann’s work on plea bargaining; and law review articles by Wright and Levine, to name just a few.
Regarding reporting trends in the data: (a) I was surprised not to see the quotes attributed to anyone, and (b) The discussion around and incorporating the quotes should be better organized. It feels redundant in places, and some of the quotes are repeated.
The authors should report – if possible – how the pro-data/data-hesitant finding intersects with other features of the offices and people they studied. For example, they should tell us if one office is more pro-data than the other; if women or men exhibit stronger pro-data tendencies; if younger or older prosecutors exhibit stronger pro-data tendencies; and so forth. They should comment on what might account for these trends. They should also be more specific about the number of prosecutors in each group. Page 14 says, “there were more” pro-data prosecutors than data-hesitant prosecutors, but the reader wants to know “how many more?”
Regarding presenting the data, I wasn’t sure how the questions about data were asked to the prosecutors who were interviewed. The form of the question seems like it might matter – asking someone, “is data useful for the office to get a handle on X?” is very different from asking, “would you consult data before filing charges in a given case?”
I also would like to see the authors reflect on the social policy implications of prosecutors using data versus choosing to ignore data. They gesture to this, but they should squarely address it.