Can We Reform Plea Bargaining?

Jenia Iontcheva Turner (Southern Methodist University – Dedman School of Law) has posted Plea Bargaining (in Academy For Justice, A Report On Scholarship And Criminal Justice Reform (Erik Luna ed., 2017), Forthcoming) on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

This report on plea bargaining was written for the “Academy for Justice,” a collaborative research project whose goal is “to inspire and guide reform in the federal and state systems, and to fortify these efforts with the research and analysis of top academic experts.”

Plea bargaining dominates the criminal process in the United States today, yet it remains highly controversial. Supporters defend it on the grounds that it expedites cases, reduces processing costs, and helps authorities obtain cooperation from defendants. But critics contend that it can generate arbitrary sentencing disparities, obscure the true facts, and even lead innocent defendants to plead guilty. Lack of transparency and limited judicial involvement frustrate attempts to correct flaws in the process. As policymakers and legislators prepare to tackle reform of sentencing laws and prosecutorial discretion, they should also consider reforms to plea bargaining that would make the practice fairer, more transparent, and more honest.

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