|« Professor Ronald J. Colombo to Address Corporate Governance in a Post-Crisis World at Notre Dame||Dean Nora V. Demleitner Speaks and Receives Award at Nassau County Supreme Court Event »|
Paul Butler, Carville Dickinson Benson Research Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Development at George Washington Law School, spoke at Hofstra on March 23 as part of the Distinguished Visiting Scholar Lecture series. Butler debated Hofstra Law Professors Alafair Burke, Bennett Capers, and Robin Charlow on whether good people should be prosecutors.
According to Butler, not only does the United States have the highest incarceration rate in the world, but its criminal justice system also unfairly targets racial minorities and poor people—and the disparities are just getting worse. Therefore, he posits that well-intentioned prosecutors legitimatize a faulty system and become pawns rather than change agents.
“Are you graduating with $100,000 dollars in debt just to lock up minorities?” he asked Hofstra law students. “How will the number of poor people you give a break to compare to the number that you put in jail?”
But Hofstra Law professors Burke, Capers and Charlow remained adamant that prosecutors are not as ill-intentioned as Butler made them out to be.
Recalling her experience as a prosecutor in Oregon, Burke explained that her work actually focused on crime prevention and community-based drug prevention. “It led to fewer arrests, and therefore fewer cases and incarceration,” she explained. She served not only as a prosecutor, but also as a community advocate.
Capers argued that good people are indeed good prosecutors simply because they have a passion for helping people. Their care, he said, “makes the community they live in, the city they live in, and this nation a better place.”
Charlow weighed in on the debate, asserting that prosecutors “manage to turn around a few lives—lives that were once on a collision course to a very bad end.” Good prosecutors, she said, truly make a difference in the lives of other people.