Soc 320 Research Opportunity, Fall 2020: Prosecutorial Decision-Making Across Contexts


Term: Fall 2020 (Soc 320, Section 235)
Status: Open
Contact: Please contact Chiara Packard cpackard@wisc.edu with your resume and cover letter (see details below) to apply for this position. It is available for 1 or 2 credits only.
Description: The prosecutor is one of the most powerful actors in the US criminal justice system. Robert Jackson once said, “The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous.” Prosecutors decide whether to drop charges or bring a case against a defendant, which charges to pursue, and what kind of sentence to recommend to the judge. Yet, we know little about how and why prosecutors make their charging decisions and how variations in context can shape the use of prosecutorial discretion. Through interviews, observations, and analysis of court documents in multiple District Attorney’s offices across Wisconsin, this research project will contribute to our understanding of the factors that shape prosecutorial decision-making across different contexts.
Duties: The Undergraduate Research Assistant will contribute to this research project in several ways: (1) They will listen to, transcribe, and take notes on interviews with prosecutors and staff in DA offices. Notes for each interview will be expected to be 1-3 paragraphs in length. (2) They will code interviews using a list of codes/themes provided by the primary researcher. The primary researcher will provide training and guidance on coding, which consists of reading through the interviews and highlighting themes/core areas of interest.
To Apply: Please submit (1) a resume, and (2) a cover letter (no more than 1-page) describing why you would like to participate in this research practicum, why you think you would be a good fit for this position, and any relevant experience you have either with qualitative coding or in the area of criminal justice. Preference will be given to applicants who have experience with qualitative coding and/or a demonstrated interest in criminal justice, inequality, and prosecutorial discretion. However, you are encouraged to apply even if you do not have this experience.