A System Tamed?
An Interim Report
on the Control of Discretion
After thirty years of efforts to control discretion in criminal justice, what has been accomplished? Has the system been tamed? Is discretion under control, or at least more controlled than before? Or has the effort been a fool's errand? Are the cynics correct? Is discretion inherently beyond control? What are the prospects for the future?
A little more than twenty years ago, Kenneth C. Davis published a pathbreaking book on discretion in criminal justice. His subtitle, A Preliminary Inquiry, reflected the fact that recognition of the pervasiveness of discretion was new. 1 Experts in the field were just beginning to appreciate the full nature of discretion, the problems associated with it, and the possibilities for controlling it. Today, it is possible to assess the impact of reform efforts designed to control discretion. The control movement is far from over and it is still too early to say where it will lead. It has not even been a coordinated movement. The problems associated with particular decision points have been addressed largely in isolation from others. Nonetheless, some general conclusions are possible. If Davis offered a preliminary inquiry, the conclusions here represent an interim report on the control of discretion in criminal justice.