Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Holistic lawyering: not just for defense lawyers anymore

Every year:

Nearly 650,000 people are released from prison.

Over 11,000,000 people are released from jail.

The vast majority (about 95%) of people who go into prison or jail are going to come out at some point and return to our communities. Who is going to help them find housing, transportation, work, health care, debt management, and other services---the necessary prerequisites to successful reintegration?

Prosecutors, that's who. This according to a new report by the NYU Center on the Administration of Criminal Law. In Disrupting the Cycle: Reimagining the Prosecutor's Role in Reentry, the Center identifies reintegration as a public-safety issue that is squarely in the realm of the prosecutorial function:
The best result for public safety is for the criminal justice system to refrain from over-incarceration at the front end and, at the back end to put individuals who have been incarcerated in a position to thrive when they return to their communities.
In other words, prosecutors should get out of the mindset of "catching bad guys and locking them up," and start focusing on recidivism and reentry.

The report offers strong reasons for prosecutors to take reentry into account at the "front end" of a case when making decisions and recommendations regarding charging, pretrial release (including conditions of release), diversion, and other alternatives to incarceration.

And at the "back end" of a case, opportunities abound for prosecutors to assist releasees either individually or systemically by making available basic living requirements, promoting expungement opportunities, and collaborating with probation officers, employers, and community resource providers.

Read this report; get inspired by its research and examples; send a copy to your favorite prosecutor; and then work with that prosecutor to promote your client's speedy and successful reentry---as a public-safety project that everyone can get behind.  

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