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Beginning in 1969, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia began developing and installing, with the help of management consultants, a computerized record keeping process that came to be known as the Prosecutor's Management Information System, or PROMIS. I Unlike other federal prosecutors, the U. S. Attorney in the District of Columbia is responsible for prosecuting felonies under local law and shares many of the problems of court backlog and scarcity of resources familiar to local prosecutors in other large cities. PROMIS is a computer data bank in which six kinds of information are collected and correlated with each other for every criminal case litigated by the U. S. Attorney's office. The computer will report information about the defendant (such as aliases, prior arrests and convictions, age, race, sex, and employment status), the crime (such as the amount of violence and property damage, the number of persons accused of working with the defendant, and the date and place of the incident), the arrest (such as the type of arrest and the names of the arresting officers), the offense or offenses charged (such as the charges at arrest, the charges actually placed after initial screening by a prosecutor, and the reasons for any changes), the witnesses (such as name, address, evidentiary value, and assessment of whether there will be problems getting a given witness to testify), and the court history of the case (such as the date and substance of every court event from arraignment to sentencing, the cause of each event, and the names of the prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge involved at each stage). Information about the defendant and the offense of which he is accused is computed through formulae that produce a case priority rating which allows the office to single out certain cases for special attention and provides the basis for detailed supervision, through guidelines, of each Assistant U. S. Attorney's discretion. While PROMIS was being developed, and in conjunction with it, the U. S. Attorney's office put many of its guidelines in the form of a Papering and Screening Manual for its Superior Court Division and Guidelines for First Offender Treatment. Neither the existence nor the contents of these documents was disclosed to the public.


Richard K. Neumann Jr., Abraham L. Freedman Fellow and Lecturer in Law, Temple University School of Law, Philadelphia; B.A. Pomona College, 1969; J.D. American University, 1975

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