Arnold Ventures Pledges $7.4M for Nationwide Prosecution Research

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Arnold Ventures Pledges $7.4M for Nationwide Prosecution Research


Today, Arnold Ventures is announcing $7.4 million in research grants to rigorously study prosecutor office policies, and provide greater awareness and insights into the decisions made every day by prosecutors across the United States.

The funding is awarded to 14 prosecution-related research projects that cover 19 states and 40 prosecutor offices — held by elected officials from across the political spectrum. The projects include studying cost-benefit analysis of pretrial diversion programs, measuring outcomes from prosecutorial recommendations on bail and detention, and research into prosecutors’ efforts to reduce racial disparities in the criminal legal system.

“Until now, prosecutorial discretion has been opaque and misunderstood,” said Kristin Bechtel, director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures. ​“Research and transparency can help us understand the effects of prosecutors’ decision-making.”

Arnold Ventures is specifically focused on how prosecutors can use their discretion to promote racial equity, transparency and data-driven decision-making, use punitive measures sparingly, and prioritize a holistic approach to community safety.

“This support will help inform policy and practices and expand our understanding of how to build safe and racially just outcomes,” said Rebecca Silber, director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures. ​“It will also lift up the research-prosecutor-community partnerships that sit at the core of these projects and are critical to building safety and justice.”

Researchers with Justice System Partners (JSP) will study the effects of individual and systemic variables on prosecutorial decision-making in Georgia and Virginia. 

“We are excited about this work as it begins to unpack a part of the criminal justice system that has historically gone unseen. With 30-plus years of experience in corrections, I have never understood why we know so little about prosecutorial decision-making given the cascading impact it has on the rest of the corrections system. This series of studies will provide a great opportunity to listen, learn, and develop policies that will help make our criminal justice system more racially just and equitable,” said Brian Lovins, principal of JSP.

“Our office believes strongly in the importance of data-informed prosecution and the role it plays in an equitable justice system. More deeply understanding and refining what guides prosecutorial decision-making has the power to greatly impact and improve individual, community, and large-scale outcomes. We are excited and hopeful about this project and the positive impact it can have in the creation of a more just system,” said Jenna Vaisvil, director of external relations, Georgia’s Western Judicial Circuit, Athens-Clarke, and Oconee Counties.

Researchers with the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) will examine how prosecutors make diversion decisions and assess system outcomes in Jefferson County, Ala., and Westchester County, N.Y.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in the first year of Fresh Start, a forward-thinking program that helps foster our goal of sustainable, safe communities. Through our successful partnership with county government and law enforcement, our community-first approach provides alternatives that research suggests will reduce crime while allowing non-violent individuals facing low-level charges a chance to reset their course before becoming embedded in the cycle of recidivism. We welcome the opportunity to partner with Arnold Ventures and RTI to gather data and to study the impact of prosecutor-led diversion,” said Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah...


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