LAWRENCE – Today, Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez joined with 64 other elected prosecutors in pledging to personally visit the correctional facilities in which individuals prosecuted by their offices are placed and to require all prosecutors in their offices to do the same. The pledge’s signatories – who represent over 50 million people across 28 states and territories and the District of Columbia – emphasize that “it is vital for prosecutors to understand the true impact of their decisions and to see firsthand the jails, prisons, and juvenile facilities in their jurisdiction.” The pledge is part of FAMM’s #VisitAPrison challenge, which encourages all state and federal policymakers to visit a prison or jail.
“As prosecutors, we owe it to our communities to have a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the criminal justice landscape,” Valdez said. “Being able to see our correctional facilities in person is vital to that understanding as nearly all offenders will be eventually released back into the community after serving their sentences.”
Each year, there are over 10 million jail admissions and around 600,000 people sent to prison. And while prosecutors have immense influence over whether someone becomes incarcerated and for how long, many have never set foot inside a prison, jail or juvenile correctional facility. As more prosecutors implement reforms to help reduce our jail and prison populations, it is critical to develop a deep understanding of correctional facilities – including how isolating, dehumanizing and unsafe conditions can impact an individual’s rehabilitation efforts and in turn, the safety of the communities to which they return.
“Every day, prosecutors across the country make charging decisions that have lasting ramifications for individuals and communities,” said Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution, the organizer of the statement. “We need more elected prosecutors and other officials to see firsthand the conditions that people are subject to in the hope that they will have an enhanced appreciation for the need to shrink the footprint of the criminal legal system.”
The pledge will be implemented by the participating offices over the coming years, as the elected prosecutors, as well as all prosecutors in their offices, complete visits to their local prison, jail and juvenile facilities, and implement ongoing requirements for their staff. This proximity to, and deeper understanding of the challenges faced by, individuals behind bars is intended to be part of setting culture and expectations among prosecutors who make vitally important decisions in these offices every day.
Read the pledge and see a full list of participants here.