March 25, 2011 11:17AM

Bonuses for Prosecutors?

A Colorado district attorney is offering bonuses to prosecutors who score a lot of convictions.  This is an awful policy that reinforces bad incentives that are already commonly found in law enforcement.  That is, the rewards and commendations typically go to those who bring in the big cases.  And that encourages a win-at-all-cost mentality to get ahead.  The agents who scrupulously respect the constitutional rights of suspects and witnesses do not usually get awards for that—so the wrong people tend to rise to the top.   

Even conservative and libertarian writers can get carried away with the idea of bringing market concepts into the government sphere.  It would be a nightmare, for example, to give IRS agents a percentage of the money they collect from taxpayers.

For a sensible view of the qualities we should want to see in a prosecutor, read this address by former U.S. attorney general Robert H. Jackson, reprinted in my book, In the Name of Justice.

(H/T to Instapundit for the news story).