Adam Foss Has A Vision For Juvenile Justice Reform | The FADER:
Adam Foss wants to reinvent the cycle that defines the American criminal justice system. The former Boston-area prosecutor spent more than six years as an assistant district attorney, mostly working in the juvenile division. Prosecutors, he said, play a pivotal role in our justice system — they wield the power to offer alternative sentencing and diversion programs for young people. According to Foss, prison isn’t always the answer. Globally, the U.S. incarcerates people at a higher rate than any other country, with more than 2.2 million individuals currently behind bars. It's a phenomenon that affects blacks and Latinos at a vastly disproportionate rate than white offenders.
Out of this reality, Foss co-founded Prosecutor Integrity, a nonprofit in partnership with John Legend and Legend’s manager, Ty Stiklorius. The organization — still very much in the early stages of development — trains prosecutors around the country to view cases through a lens of cultural competency and compassion. Foss’s mission is simple: he wants to better train prosecutors about intervention, diversion, and rehabilitation programs.
Prosecutor Integrity and Legend’s #FreeAmerica campaign are part of a larger, growing movement among the creative community to tackle America’s mass incarceration epidemic. Of the millions of youth arrested each year, 95 percent are arrested for nonviolent crimes, including truancy, “criminal mischief” and other low level offenses. These are offenses that, all too often, land black and brown youth in court, stigmatizing minors with cases that aren’t worthy of a criminal record.
According to Foss, 36, a youthful mistake shouldn’t follow a young person for the rest of their life, stopping them from getting an education or landing a decent job. People between ages 18 and 24 make up only 10 percent of the nation’s population, but account for 30 percent of arrests and have the highest rate of rearrest.
Justice advocates have rallied behind Foss’s vision — he's even garnered support from Silicon Valley (Daniel Loeb, founder of hedge fund Third Point LLC, which Forbes estimates to be worth $2.6 billion, committed startup funds to Prosecutor Integrity). Still, Foss and his team are figuring out just how Prosecutor Integrity is going to work — so far it’s all been a whirlwind of iterating and “big picture” talks on stages with big thinkers. Now, though, the hard work begins. In an interview with The FADER, Foss explained why there’s a better way forward and mapped his vision for the role prosecutors should play in our criminal justice system.