Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, December 30, 2011

Study of prosecutor turnover subject of newscast

A La Follette School report on the turnover of Wisconsin prosecutors was featured in a Madison television news report in December.

Led by professor Dennis Dresang, the study, "Public Safety and Assistant District Attorney Staffing in Wisconsin" found that 75 percent of Wisconsin's 330 assistant district attorney's left their jobs between 2001 and 2007.

That high turnover rate "was having an impact on the workload," Dresang told WISC-TV. "It was having an impact on the quality of prosecutions, domestic abuse cases slipping through the cracks."

Through a survey of current and former ADAs, the study's authors learned that the opportunity to serve the public is the major reason that individuals become county prosecutors. They also learned that the state's compensation system prompts these public servants to leave their jobs, usually within the first five years of service.

To lower ADA turnover in Wisconsin, the study recommends, the state should improve compensation by giving high performers merit increases, targeting ADAs with three to 10 years of experience, and accounting for the higher cost of living in Milwaukee and Dane counties.

In addition to Dresang, the authors are La Follette School alum Jerrett Jones, a doctoral student in the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Department of Sociology, and second-year students Alex Marach and Hilary J. Waukau.