Game Design in the Real World: Prosecutorial Incentives

I wanted to draw attention to this story in the ABA Journal, in which a former prosecutor explains his missteps in a case that saw an innocent man sentenced to death. Reflecting on his actions and taking responsibility, especially in such a public way, was an act of great courage.

I also think it’s worth noting the comments to that article, several of which talk about the incentives confronting prosecutors. The American Bar Association’s ethics rules for prosecutors include a note that “[a] prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate,” but the article’s comments describe a variety of factors that might encourage prosecutors to feel that they will be rewarded more for winning than for achieving fairness in a broad sense. We as a society need to make sure that we evaluate prosecutors on their contributions to justice rather than solely on the number of their victories, so that they are supported when they seek good outcomes that don’t involve a jury verdict in their favor.

Hmm. We’re looking for a nuanced scoring system that weighs a number of inputs, most of which have no number or other measurable quantity inherently associated with them, some of them entirely intangible.

Sounds like a job for a game designer, doesn’t it?


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