Jun 23, 2020 · 6 min read

First-of-Kind Leadership Development Distance Learning Program for Prosecutors Launched at Stanford Graduate School of Business


Pilot program is a collaboration of R Street, Vera Institute, For the People, Fair and Just Prosecution, Public Rights Project, Prosecutor Impact, and Right on Crime with support from CZI

Today Chan Zuckerberg Initiative partners including R Street, Vera Institute, For the People, Fair and Just Prosecution, Public Rights Project, Prosecutor Impact,  and Right on Crime invited early- to mid-career prosecutors from across the country to apply for a first-of-its-kind 11 week distance leadership pilot program hosted by Stanford Graduate School of Business, and anchored by experienced former prosecutors who now lead organizations committed to transforming prosecution. The goal of the program is to develop and support emerging leaders who are committed to forging a new path in the practice of prosecution and redressing inequities in the criminal justice system.

Prosecutors’ everyday decisions impact millions of lives. Everytime they touch a case, there are opportunities to improve outcomes for people in the system and rebuild community trust. CZI supports organizations that bring public accountability and transparency to prosecutorial practices. CZI also partners with prosecutor offices across the country to help drive data-informed decision-making in an effort to support them in the difficult work of shifting how prosecution is practiced.

“We expect prosecutors to be leaders of their communities, yet we often don’t adequately prepare them for this challenge. When an experienced police officer breaks the law, we must have prosecutors with the courage and skill to hold such individuals accountable,” said the Director of Prosecution Reform for Right on Crime, former Utah U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman.”This curriculum will help prepare prosecutors to serve as a meaningful check on prosecutorial and law enforcement abuse.”

The aim of the program launched today is to gather a diverse cohort of emerging leaders in prosecution from communities across the country who will grow together as leaders ― even and especially after the formal curriculum has concluded. This pilot will rely heavily on feedback from its first cohort of participants to build an enduring model for leadership professional development for prosecutors.

“As a prosecutor in Boston, I discovered firsthand the glaring imbalance between the power we wield in the name of justice ― and the tools we are given to achieve it. I saw how my decisions could instantly transform lives, or ruin them. That imbalance fuels mass incarceration and racial injustice  in this country,” said Adam Foss, founder and Executive Director of Prosecutor Impact. “Prosecutors everywhere have an opportunity in this moment to leave behind the relics of a dysfunctional system and build a more just future, but it will take true leadership. That’s where PI comes in. We’re thrilled to see this leadership program come together to help move the work forward.”

Participants will be selected from prosecution offices around the country. The program is geared for managing prosecutors who are still early in their careers, especially those with oversight over teams or sections of the office. The selection process will bring forward voices representative of their communities, emphasizing racial and gender diversity.  For more information click here.

Selected applicants will then enroll in a 11-week distance learning leadership curriculum featuring live-virtual content supplemented with prepared materials. Each week will feature a different personal or organizational leadership module including topics on personal values, social justice, cognitive biases and decision-making, leadership through difference, disparate power in negotiation, organizational strategy, and crisis leadership. Participants will engage with Stanford faculty and experienced former prosecutors.

“We at Stanford GSB are pleased to leverage our experience in teaching leadership and innovation to bring about transformation in the public prosecution system,” said Brian Lowery, the Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor of Organizational Behavior, and faculty co-director of the program. “Drawing from interdisciplinary empirical research from the social sciences as well as best practices, the curriculum will address the leadership skills of participants by examining the psychology of moral intuitions, uncovering cognitive biases, and leveraging power in negotiations.”

“The curriculum for this virtual program also addresses foundational skills of management such as organizational design, managing through crises, and strategy-setting and implementation,” said Ken Shotts, the David S. and Ann M. Barlow Professor of Political Economy, and faculty co-director of the program. “Through the creation of this program, I am honored and humbled to contribute to the important task of bringing about positive change to the American criminal justice system.”

Supplementary content will help participants apply the leadership curriculum to the challenges they face in their daily work. Tuition will be covered by the program’s sponsors, and there are no costs for participants in the course.  Continuing legal education (CLE) credits will be available to those who complete the curriculum (pending approval of the final curriculum).

“Our role as prosecutors requires that we are consistently evaluating how we can improve and better serve our communities.  The changes that we need to make will require courageous leadership,” said Hillary Blout, Executive Director of For the People. “Through this program, we will gather today’s emerging leaders in prosecution and provide them with the tools to help them navigate the challenges ahead.”

CZI’s criminal justice reform program strives to accelerate a transformation in the American justice system that centers community health and safety, with people who have been directly impacted – crime survivors, presently and formerly incarcerated persons, along with their families and communities – in the lead. CZI’s work focuses on three key areas within criminal justice: transforming prosecution, expanding opportunities for impacted people, and strengthening the broader reform movement.


About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

About Stanford Executive Education

Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) annually offers more than 100 short courses and certificate programs through its Stanford Executive Education program. Executive Education programs are targeted at managers and senior executives seeking to enhance leadership skills, fill gaps in knowledge, and innovate within their organizations. These programs engage leaders in a highly-immersive, research- based academic experience, led by the same senior faculty that teach in the two-year MBA and one-year MSx degree programs. Participants leave with lifelong connections to a global network of peers. Visit the Executive Education website (https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/exec-ed) for more information and program offerings.

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