The Power to Transform is Stronger than the Power to Punish: Public Defenders are the Key to Equal Justice
LOS ANGELES PUBLIC INTEREST LAW JOURNAL, Vol. 6
9 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2017
Date Written: January 1, 2017
Those of us who practice and teach in the field of criminal justice are frequently asked by law students interested in helping to reform the criminal justice system whether they can have a greater impact as a prosecutor or a public defender. Frequently they are already leaning towards the view that they can have more power as a prosecutor, for it is widely accepted that prosecutors are the most powerful players in the justice system. However, I think this view underestimates the incredible power public defenders have as the vehicle through which the voice of our most impacted communities can be heard in the system. if we continue to ignore the community voice, true justice cannot be achieved. In this "letter to a social justice attorney" I argue that transforming our justice system requires that these voices are heard and that, therefore, a community of public defenders committed to amplifying the stories of "otherized" communities is critical to systemic reform. This letter provides a counter argument for the student who has repeatedly heard that prosecutors are all-powerful and public defenders are relatively powerless.
Keywords: indigent defense, public defender, prosecutor, social justice, criminal justice
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