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NY: I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System

Ten years ago, when I started my career as an assistant district attorney in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, I viewed the American criminal justice system as a vital institution that protected society from dangerous people. I once prosecuted a man for brutally attacking his wife with a flashlight, and another for sexually assaulting a waitress at a nightclub. I believed in the system for good reason.

But in between the important cases, I found myself spending most of my time prosecuting people of color for things we white kids did with impunity growing up in the suburbs. As our office handed down arrest records and probation terms for riding dirt bikes in the street, cutting through a neighbor’s yard, hosting loud parties, fighting, or smoking weed – shenanigans that had rarely earned my own classmates anything more than raised eyebrows and scoldings – I often wondered if there was a side of the justice system that we never saw in the suburbs. Last year, I got myself arrested in New York City and found out. Full Article

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  1. Gary

    Fascinating article. This guy gets himself arrested for a misdemeanor on purpose in order to study the “justice” system from the inside out (after having worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Boston). Being white, he had to actually work VERY HARD to get himself arrested — while the police went after (sometimes innocent) blacks in his vicinity — while he was blatantly and obviously breaking the law. All this being said, the most fascinating thing about this story is a very pertinent observation regarding recidivism made by this ex-Assistant District Attorney: “I’d worked with probation departments in several states, and I knew that regular family contact has been shown to reduce recidivism. My probation officer also refused to let me go home for Easter and birthdays. After six or seven of these refusals, I complained to a supervisor, citing New York’s evidence-based practices manual, and was assigned to a new probation officer.”

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