Sep 28, 2010

A Conversation with National Leaders in Prosecution

We are blogging from the 6th Annual National Community Prosecution Conference in Washington D.C. The Conference brings together innovative prosecutorial leaders from across the nation to explore the latest innovations in crime prevention and intervention. The Conference is organized by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in partnership with the Center for Court Innovation and the U.S Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Four of the nation’s leading prosecutor’s sat down to discuss their perspectives on Community Prosecution at the 6th Annual Community Prosecution Conference.

Seth Williams, the recently elected District Attorney of Philadelphia, had the most colorful quote of the day in describing his crime prevention philosophy: “The people of Philadelphia prefer not to be shot, rather than being shot and having their case handled well by the DA’s Office.” According to Williams, in Philadelphia 5% of the offenders commit 60% of the crimes. He stressed the importance of not re-inventing the wheel; his office is actively “borrowing” innovations from other community prosecutors around the country.

Michael Shrunk, the veteran District Attorney of Multnomah County, Oregon, and Charles J. Hynes, Brooklyn, New York District Attorney, described their offices’ many innovations. Both leaders developed the earliest acknowledged community prosecution programs. Hynes highlighted his reentry program, COMAlert, and his drug treatment alternative to incarceration program, DTAP, both have been independently evaluated as effective. Shrunk’s office implemented the Neighborhood Prosecutor’s Program in Portland and was a driving force by Portland’s drug court and community court projects.

Improving public trust and confidence in the justice system is an important outcome of community prosecution, according to Anita Alveraz, State’s Attorney for Cook County Illinois, who described her recent efforts to revive community prosecution in Chicago.

The 21st century prosecutor must work to ensure justice for victims and the community, while providing opportunities for offenders to become law abiding citizens. Even in the face of budget cuts and a deepening distrust of government, the panel conveyed that community prosecutors are making a difference.