New Study Finds Staffing Shortages, High Workloads and Low Compensation Among the Nation’s Largest Prosecutors’ Offices
WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 22, 2021– Researchers at Lafayette College, in collaboration with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), have released a new study reporting findings from a survey of the nation’s largest prosecutors’ offices.
Dr. Adam Biener, assistant professor of economics at Lafayette College, authored the report, having worked with APA to develop and field a survey to 50 of the nation’s largest prosecutors’ offices. The survey measured staffing, compensation, allocation of staff time across different programmatic offerings as well as the impact of COVID-19 on office operations. This report provides new evidence on prosecutor office staffing and compensation and is one of the first assessments of how prosecutors’ offices allocate staff resources to casework as well as other programmatic offerings such as prosecutor-led diversion or conviction integrity units.
“Very few country-wide, comprehensive surveys like this one have been conducted during the last several decades,” says David Labahn, President and CEO of APA. “At a time when prosecutors and their office resources are being strained by the pandemic, staffing shortages, and increases in violent crime, there is a serious need to analyze important trends associated with prosecutor workload and compensation levels. We hope this report can inform both prosecutors and policymakers on potential steps to adequately resource offices to support their efforts to make communities safer.”
The study found that starting salaries for prosecutors have likely not kept pace with inflation. Further, many large offices have significantly lower staffing levels relative to their jurisdiction population size, likely contributing to increased workloads. The study also documents how offices have adopted new safety protocols in response to the pandemic but highlights additional strains such as those from court closures.
“The role of the prosecutor has rapidly expanded in recent years,” according to Dr. Biener. “As the expectations on any one prosecutor increases, many offices are increase staffing or compensation to meet the rising demands on prosecutors. Taken together, this can lead to burnout and difficulty retaining and attracting new staff.”
The report concludes that most, if not all large prosecutors’ offices face at least some resource constraint. Dr. Biener argues that these findings show the potential for policy solutions to address these challenges. “There is scope for new models of staffing, resourcing, and workflow that can improve the capacity of prosecutors to pursue justice, build trust and make their communities safer and healthier.”
More information, as well as the full report, can be found here.