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U.S. Department of Justice Reports Statistics on State Prosecutors

by Matt Clarke

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the U.S. Department of Justice has released the most recent in a series of statistical reports on state prosecutors.

The report covers 2,330 prosecutors’ offices serving judicial districts in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Other than D.C., no federal prosecutors’ offices were included in the report, nor were county or municipal prosecutors. The first national survey of state prosecutors was conducted in 2001; the BJS’s most recent report covers statistical data for 2007.

The judicial districts surveyed ranged in population from 500 to 9.9 million; 85% of the districts corresponded to county boundaries, but Alaska, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island had one prosecutor’s office for the entire state.

The estimated budget for all the prosecutors’ offices combined was $5.8 billion, down from $6.1 billion in 2001 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Despite the budgetary decrease, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) assistant prosecutors increased about 7% to nearly 25,000 nationwide.

Assistant prosecutors handle the bulk of prosecutions and work under an elected chief prosecutor known as the district attorney, commonwealth attorney, county attorney or state’s attorney, depending on the jurisdiction. Assistant prosecutors comprised 32% of the workforce in state prosecutors’ offices, while support staff – including administrative and clerical employees – made up another 33%. Investigators (9%), victim advocates (6%), legal services employees (5%), supervisory attorneys (7%), chief prosecutors (3%) and civil attorneys (2%) constituted most of the remaining staff.

Budgets for full-time prosecutors’ offices ranged from an average of $526,000 in districts serving less than 100,000 residents to $49.3 million in those with a population of one million or more. In part-time offices, the average budget was $157,000.

Staffing varied from an average of 535 FTEs in districts with over 1,000,000 residents to nine FTEs in full-time offices serving jurisdictions with populations under 100,000. The total number of FTEs in all state prosecutors’ offices was 77,927.

Chief prosecutor salaries ranged from an average of $165,000 in the largest offices to under $45,000 in part-time offices. Average assistant prosecutor salaries ranged from $33,460 for entry-level assistant prosecutors in part-time offices to $108,434 for an experienced assistant prosecutor in an office serving one million or more residents.

State prosecutors reported 2.17 million felony convictions in 2007, only 3% of which were adjudicated in jury trials. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of cases were resolved through plea bargains. Jurisdictions with one million or more residents averaged 11,952 felony convictions while full-time offices in districts with less than 100,000 residents averaged 315. Dividing the budget for prosecutors’ offices by the number of closed cases revealed a nationwide average per-case cost of $1,998.

The prosecution of cases involving methamphetamine manufacture was reported by 71% of the offices; 58% reported prosecuting Internet child exploitation cases, 55% prosecuted elder abuse and 34% prosecuted gang violence. Almost 75% of state prosecutors utilized DNA evidence in criminal cases.

Interestingly, 47% of state prosecutors’ offices reported receiving threats while 3% reported assaults on staff members. Almost half of the offices indicated that some employees carried firearms, including 21% of chief prosecutors.

Source: “Prosecutors in State Courts, 2007 - Statistical Tables,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 234211 (December 2011)

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