Adam Foss: A prosecutor's vision for a better justice system
Adam Foss - Juvenile justice reformer
By shifting his focus from incarceration to transforming lives, Adam Foss is reinventing the role of the criminal prosecutor. Full bio
the opinions or policies
a Marine and a hairdresser.
in our communities.
specifically told to stay out of,
ever spent one day in jail
of youthful indiscretion?
criminal justice reform,
to talk to you about today.
since you shared with me,
a confession on my part.
in being a public servant,
that I would ever be a prosecutor.
of law school, I got an internship
of Boston Municipal Court.
neighborhood in Boston,
the first day of that internship.
and I saw an auditorium of people
the front of that courtroom
attorney and a prosecutor
about that person without their input.
approached the front of that courtroom,
read the facts of each case,
in criminal law,
people in the auditorium,
coming to us for help
as a paralegal for a defense attorney,
young men accused of murder.
and the criminal justice system,
were condemned to die in prison,
with those men that I couldn't fathom
for the next 80 years
from happening in the first place.
of small street crimes,
without that help.
drove me to criminal justice work.
made me want to be a defender.
that I came to understand
talking about the problem.
system needs reform,
people in American jails and prisons,
nation on the planet.
people on probation or parole,
people of color,
are to receive them.
criminal justice reform,
about the prosecutor.
by the Boston Police Department.
he was African American
at a local public school.
wasn't providing the financial opportunity
and sold them on the Internet.
of 30 felony charges.
stressed Christopher out the most.
would have on his future.
came across my desk.
dramatic, in that moment,
a brand-new prosecutor,
for how the decisions I would make
a felon for the rest of his life
prosecutors step onto the job
of the impact of our decisions,
to believe that somehow,
brings about accountability
by our convictions and our trial wins,
incentivized to be creative
we might not otherwise.
the very goal that we all want,
would have arraigned Christopher.
for what we can do.
would give him a criminal record,
criminal justice system today.
employment, education or stable housing.
factors in his life,
to commit further, more serious crime.
with the criminal justice system,
that he would return again
to his children, to his family
outcome for the rest of us.
expected to do justice,
justice was in my classes --
are the most powerful actors
not the President
and give him a criminal record
him for 30 felonies, for one felony,
Christopher into a plea deal
for Christopher to go to jail.
make every day unfettered,
of those decisions.
of professional men of color
free finger sandwiches into my mouth,
at me and approaching me.
but I couldn't place from where,
this young man was hugging me.
and you changed my life."
for his actions,
where he wouldn't re-offend.
of the computers that he sold
we couldn't recover.
this case could impact his future
from a four-year school.
I looked at his name tag,
of a large bank in Boston.
and making a lot more money than me --
seen him in Roxbury Court.
journey to success,
to keep him on the path.
of Christophers out there,
for public safety than a condemned one.
to throw the book at Christopher
in Roxbury Court,
in need of intervention.
quantity of drugs in my late teens,
of the criminal justice system.
and guidance of my district attorney,
for stealing groceries to feed her kids
teenager in adult jail
and community supervision.
on the streets,
showing up after school,
of a lunchbox into his backpack,
normally take prepping our cases
for trial down the road
to the problems as they presented.
your prosecutors to spend theirs?
that we know is failing,
and reallocate it into education,
so we can develop our neighborhoods?
will return to the very same system.
of creating the problem,
and research for us.
can make that happen.
district attorney's election
me and my neighbors safer?
at the beginning of this talk
of the power of opportunity,
your own brand of discipline
that you are today --
wield power so great
bring about opportunity,
of a strong community,
that you elect fix them
who's helping people stay out of jail,
in the system deserve it,
and do justice for demand it.
About the speaker:Adam Foss - Juvenile justice reformer
By shifting his focus from incarceration to transforming lives, Adam Foss is reinventing the role of the criminal prosecutor.
Why you should listen
As Assistant District Attorney in the Juvenile Division of Suffolk County, Adam Foss has become one of Boston's leading voices for compassion in criminal justice. Recognizing that prosecutors have a unique opportunity to intervene in offender's lives, Foss co-founded the Roxbury CHOICE Program, a collaborative effort between defendants, the court, the probation department, and the D.A. to recast probation as a transformative experience rather than a punitive process.
In addition to his work with the DA's office, Foss is the founder of the SCDAO Reading Program, a project designed to bridge the achievement gap of area elementary school students.
Adam Foss | Speaker | TED.com