Session: Participatory Diversion: Contemplating a New Conception of Prosecution and Criminal Justice Praxis (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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74 Participatory Diversion: Contemplating a New Conception of Prosecution and Criminal Justice Praxis

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 5:15 PM-6:15 PM
Cluster: Crime and Criminal Justice
Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill, PhD, Kings County District Attorney's Office, Saadiq Bey, MSW, Kings County District Attorney's Office, Laura Abrams, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, Shiqueen Brown, LMSW, Vera Institute for Justice and Kenton Kirby, LCSW, Center for Court Innovation
Efforts to reorient the American criminal justice system from a punish-and-control model to one focused on protecting and enhancing societal welfare and quality of life are now more common. President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing inspired efforts to heal strained community-police relations and President Trump’s signing of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act completed a bipartisan congressional effort in criminal justice reform. Powerful dissents by Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg incorporate language previously relegated to marginalized activist movements. Books by justice scholars like Michelle Alexander and Elizabeth Hinton enjoy wide distribution in scholarly and lay publics alike. And a cohort of “progressive prosecutors� have implemented a spate of less punitive policies in places like Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. The Kings County District Attorney’s Office, in Brooklyn, New York, is a case in point. Keeping in mind public safety and caring for victims, its diversion program applies a social work lens to also mitigating harm to criminal suspects or offenders. The view prioritizes service over sanction, separating misguidedness from criminality and “a stupid mistake� or cry for help from criminal culpability worthy of incarceration. Still, scholars have yet to translate in-practice models of broad-scale prosecutorial progressivism to cohesive theoretical frameworks of the type that guide explanatory and evaluative research. Nor does scholarship on prosecution tend to offer generalizable yet actionable conceptions of prosecutorial progressivism as has been done for ideas like community policing. This has meant that efforts like those in Brooklyn have proceeded without deep integration with social science or empirical research. This roundtable is to explore potential theories of prosecutorial progressivism, policy and programming that emanate from such theories, and anticipated challenges in implementing and evaluating these policies and underlying theories. It builds on efforts like the Brooklyn DA’s Justice 2020 report, which outlined general principles to guide the office’s policy and practice. It will be preceded by a series of working sessions wherein speakers develop a foundational framing for the discussion and will be followed by work proposing a theoretical framework for prosecutorial progressivism in action. Accordingly, the presenters blend the practitioner-researcher boundary and bring research and scholarly training to on-the-ground program and policy work. Speakers hail from the Brooklyn DA’s participatory diversion program, the Vera Institute for Justice, the Center for Court Innovation and the University of California, Los Angeles, moderated by the Director of Research and Data Analytics for the Brooklyn DA. We touch several topics of interest to the participants in SSWR: practice innovations; the criminal justice system; law and policy; juvenile justice administration; adolescent delinquency and offending; government/state impact on communities; community based participatory research with ethnic minorities; evidence based practice; intervention and implementation research. Our hope is that our conversation facilitates connection with similarly minded reformers, academic and practitioner alike, to better articulate a theory of prosecutorial action that can animate policy and practice changes across the nation.
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