In 2020, thirty-nine top prosecutors from across the country have promised to visit the jails and prisons in their jurisdiction and to require their line prosecutors to do the same. What’s more, they’ve pledged to make it part of the job description going forward.
That’s thirty-nine district attorneys, county attorneys, or state attorneys from twenty-one states, by my count. Here’s the press release about it, and here’s the pledge statement itself.
Specifically, these public officials have pledged to do three things:
- Personally visit the local jails, prisons, and juvenile halls in their community;
- Require line prosecutors in their office to do the same; and
- Make this a part of their job description and ongoing training.
Of course, there are over 3,000 counties in this country and over 2,300 prosecuting offices. But these thirty-nine include some pretty populous ones.
In any event, good for them. What a stroke of common sense if we care to get things right. Why wouldn’t we want the people we ask to carry out our justice system to do this? Why wouldn’t we want them to understand the consequences of their decisions in full? Many prosecutors spend no time in a correctional facility, and most don’t visit one regularly. And when they do, it’s usually not to learn what it’s like in there.
If it were up to me, all prosecutors would spend a night in jail as part of their training and orientation. One night is not too much to ask. It’s an important job. They’d arrive in the afternoon, stay in a cell until noon the next day, and be treated like anyone else along the way. Imagine if we made that experience as real as possible. It would make for better decisions about bail, sentencing, and alternatives to jail or prison.
Better decisions, at the end of the day, whatever they would be.
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