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Abstract

In an article published over fifteen years ago, Georgetown Law Professor Abbe Smith argued that one cannot be a good person and a good prosecutor. In other words, if you are concerned with social justice, it would be selfdefeating to work in a prosecutor’s office. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the helm, the federal criminal justice system has changed since Smith wrote this article, in many ways for the worse. At the same time, in response to a powerful grass roots movement, the reformist approach to criminal justice has gained some ground. In this oddly polarized context, this essay revisits Abbe Smith’s question and concludes that not only can one be a good person and a good prosecutor, but individuals devoted to social justice and concerned about flaws in the criminal justice system should seriously consider a career in prosecution. The radically different views towards criminal justice shared by prosecutors and the public offer an opportunity for change, in a volatile atmosphere in which commitment from within is a promising route to reform.

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