John Legend, the Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe winner who launched the #FreeAmerica campaign to end mass incarceration last year, has recently teamed up with Adam Foss, an assistant district attorney in Boston, to draw attention the role that prosecutors play in our criminal justice system.
During his internships in law school, Foss kept seeing the same defendants at the courthouse. He came to the conclusion that many of these people need services, not incarceration to stop the pattern. Foss considered being a public defender, but chose to be a prosecutor because of the enormous discretion they have to deal with cases. In his view, prosecutors have defendants’ lives and futures in their hands, but are taught to avoid risks by overcharging defendants and not adequately using diversion programs to focus on rehabilitation and community restoration.
John Legend has stated that reforming the justice system is not about people avoiding consequences for their bad acts, but to make those consequences proportional while being aware of the social and financial costs of sentencing people to long prison terms. Foss voices agreement with this philosophy. Legend has also said that he plans to commit some of the starter funds for the Prosecutorial Integrity Institute, which will allow prosecutors to “get some training and thinking about how their role affects mass incarceration” before their first day on the job.
WATCH: Adam Foss discuss his role as a prosecutor in this amazing TED talk: