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How to Recenter the Role of Prosecutors Around Accountability and Fairness

by Cathy Brown
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As a District Legal professional serving a fourth time period, I’ve intently watched the overly simplistic narrative of “reform” vs. “robust on crime” prosecutors intensify over the previous couple of years. I’m undecided what’s driving this division, however I do know that reform and public security aren’t mutually unique. As prosecutors we will make adjustments that may strengthen, and never sacrifice, public security by incomes the belief of these we serve.

Let’s begin by defining justice. Whereas each prosecutor would agree that their function is to uphold justice of their communities, every might outline justice otherwise. Is it extra arrests and incarceration? Is it decarceration? I not too long ago requested my prosecutors and employees to outline justice in their very own phrases and the vary and thoughtfulness of their responses confirmed the complexity of our work and the problem of working in lockstep once we are pursuing various targets.

Most Individuals define justice as accountability and equity and in a current survey of crime victims in our group, we found that they thought-about justice to be greater than arrests and imprisonment. In actual fact, many victims need those that commit crimes to get the assistance wanted to not offend once more, which we all know is unlikely by means of incarceration.

So, within the debate over reform vs. robust on crime prosecutors, we’re lacking a bigger level: what can we, as prosecutors, do to uphold accountability and equity?

By recentering our function round accountability and equity, as an alternative of debating about the correct quantity of punishment, we may also help advance the occupation of prosecutors whereas making our communities higher. Yale Regulation Faculty’s Justice Collaboratory partnered with the Affiliation of Prosecuting Attorneys to determine how to do that and I used to be lucky to take part in its pilot program together with town attorneys from Saint Paul, MN and Columbus, OH.

The pilot aimed to use a procedural justice framework to assist prosecutors develop a long-term sustainable course of to managing coverage and public questions of safety which are accountable to the group. Procedural Justice is a concept based mostly on assembly the expectations of residents that they are going to be listened to and expertise impartial, unbiased and clear choice making. Many years of labor in policing and courts settings present that the best way legal justice professionals talk and interact with system contributors will increase public belief and voluntary compliance and cooperation.

The 4 key parts of belief and legitimacy are:

  1. Neutrality: Selections are unbiased and guided by clear reasoning.
  2. Respect: All are handled with respect and dignity.
  3. Voice: All are given an opportunity to inform their aspect of the story
  4. Trustworthiness: Decisionmakers convey reliable motives about these impacted by their choices.

All year long-long pilot we labored collectively to evaluate present practices and plan for the implementation of enhancements knowledgeable by procedural justice. Some examples of advisable enhancements for prosecutors embrace: demonstrating respect to the accused and victims within the courtroom; introducing ourselves by title and clarifying our function within the course of; being extra clear with victims and the accused alike by sharing reasonable timelines about case screening and the method – and letting concerned events know if there may be an atypical backlog or delay; having a entrance desk that’s skilled to deal with robust visits and calls (as they’re the general public face of the workplace); ensuring coverage is theory-driven and evidence-informed (citing assets); and, making certain everybody feels heard and a part of the method.

The adoption of this framework by prosecutors is a basis upon which each public security and public confidence might be constructed. I’ve little doubt that the talk in regards to the virtues of reform vs. robust on crime prosecutors will proceed, however I urge my colleagues to take a step again and take into account our true mission of equity and accountability. These can really feel like nebulous or lofty targets, however a long time of analysis on procedural justice has taken numerous the guesswork out of realizing easy methods to advance these goals.

Sim Gill

Reforms, when applied by a reputable and trusted prosecutors workplace, aren’t solely attainable however more practical. By an “elevating belief and legitimacy” framework and course of, we will make adjustments that make issues higher for our constituents with out compromising public security.

We will create packages like Salt Lake Metropolis’s pre-file diversion that places folks in remedy as an alternative of jail, and specialty courts for these with psychological well being and substance use issues, in addition to veterans and people experiencing home violence.

We will do extra to assist crime victims and their households. And we will be sure that we prosecute those that commit violent offenses with out abdicating our ethical, moral and obligation to create a extra simply system. Once we do all of this whereas prioritizing the parts of belief and legitimacy, we’re maximizing the final word final result all of us need—safer, more healthy communities.

Sim Gill has served because the Salt Lake Metropolis District Legal professional since 2010.

Picture supply: thecrimereport.org

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