In an attempt to be less hectoring, I'm slicing out some of the more carping passages in Indefensible.
The book is probably stronger for it, but as an inveterate hectorer and carper, I have to say that I do think there's some value in saying some of the things I think are true about being a public defender.
But hey--this is a blog. And given the unmediated nature of blogging, I feel free in these 'pages' to hector and carp to my heart's content. And what hectoring nonsense have I been musing on of late? Caring--or more accurately the role of caring in being a PD.
Caring, day after day is one of the hardest things to do, and one of the things that most separates the committed public defender from just about everyone else in the system. How long, after all can you actually give a shit? Many prosecutors and even some more process oriented PD's have told me that in order to protect themselves from the crush of cases and the world of need, they cope by becoming professionals—by divorcing themselves from what they see. They claim, as one told me not so long ago, that “it’s the only way to survive the job—to not take it so personally.” They’re wrong, of course, and their emotional remove generally serves to erase whatever vestiges of compassion might otherwise have taken root in their tiny little hearts.
For me, of course it is very personal. I get mad when they try to put people I like in prison. I get mad when prosecutors justify ruining lives on the basis of ‘policy’. I feel personally offended when justice yields to ambition, or more often, rank callousness. I am personally disgusted when the criminal justice system perpetuates the cycle of violence and poverty in communities I care about. It’s all personal. It's not professional--and if and when it stops being personal, it may well be time to quit.