Criminal Justice Prosecutor Essay

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I am a criminal prosecutor writing to express my concern regarding the current methods of training for prosecutors in law school for the purpose of improving our criminal justice system. America knows that our criminal justice system needs reform. We are aware of the discrimination and targeting of people of color and those of lower-class. However, prosecutors are rarely mentioned when talking about our criminal justice system (we usually only talk about our police, sentence laws, and prisons). Prosecutors actually have the most powerful role in the criminal justice system and many don’t realize how big the consequences to their decisions are. As a former law school student, I am aware of the outdated ‘tough-on-crime’ approach that is primarily taught today. We are taught to avoid risk at all cost. This method has failed to address overincarceration and that criminalizes too many individuals struggling with mental illness, drug addiction or the adversity of poverty.

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We are the most incarcerated nation on the planet. We spend 80 billion dollars on our prison system, a system that we know is failing. This money could instead go to education, health care, mental health treatment, improving our public facilities. Yet we continue draining it into this system because innocent individuals are thrown in jail when there are other options.

A few years ago, a black eighteen-year-old was arrested for petty crime. His name was Christopher, and he was a senior at a local public school. He had his mind set on college, but worked a minimum wage job, and his parents were not able to provide for his schooling financially. In a series of bad decisions, he stole 20 laptops from a school and sold them online. This one bad decision led to his arrest and thirty felony charges. It led to the possibility of years of jail time and a criminal record that would stay with him for the rest of his life. People like Cristopher enter the criminal justice system in hope of our help, yet law school teaches us to turn them down. If another prosecutor were to decide Christopher’s outcome, they would likely have arraigned him, making it a hundred times more difficult for him to get a job.

Yet when I took on Christopher’s case, I realized that a youthful mistake shouldn’t follow a young person for the rest of their life, stopping them from getting an education or landing a decent job. I chose not to arraign Christopher. Instead, I worked with Christopher on being accountable for his actions. He did community service and wrote an essay on his wrong doings. We were able to recover 75 percent of the computers and set up a financial plan for those not recovered. Today, Christopher is a manager of a large bank in Boston who makes more money than I do. My decision as a prosecutor led to him being able to reach his full capacity and his success. However, there are thousands of young adults like Christopher locked up in prison because they did not receive the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. America needs prosecutors to recognize their situations and protect them.

The truth is that law schools in this country are not really doing the job they need to prepare us to be making the life or death decisions about people. Prosecutors are taught to go about their cases with a method that is actually counterproductive in achieving the goal that we want, which is safer communities. The shift from law school to the professional world is far too rapid. I had eight weeks out of law school before I began my first case. During those eight weeks, I had no hands-on experience with communities I would be prosecuting. I was oblivious to the struggles and the motives of these individuals, as well as the chain of events that placed them in the chair in front of me. Most all other prosecutors are unaware of these things. After this eight weeks, law school students like myself start telling people whether or not to go to jail. As citizens of this community, it is crucial for prosecutors to learn more about the massive impact they have on society.

In order to alter the fate of our criminal justice system, we must implement a new curriculum that will help attorneys move away from our nation’s incarceration-driven approaches. It is the duty of law schools to develop needed training for prosecutors to promote engagement in prevention, alternatives to incarceration, and a deeper understanding of the life experiences of those who find their way into the justice system. I wholeheartedly hope that this council will recognize the importance of taking these measures and advocates for reform in our law schools.

 

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