When I started this job my kids were young. Heck, they're still way too young to understand what a "lawyer" is, what "law" means. So how do I explain what I, a prosecuting attorney, do for a living?
At first it was easy. And I got the idea from my son. He saw a cop (another father) at his day care center, walked up to him and said:
"Are you a policeman?"
"Yes," said the cop. "As a matter of fact, I am."
"Well," said my son, "my dad's a super hero."
And yes, that about made me cry.
But now that they are older I'm less comfortable with their nightly question: "How many bad guys did you get today? Did you put them in jail?"
I like that in their minds I'm always the good guy, always saving people and on the side of right and justice (the truth, right?!). But such a black-and-white take on the criminal justice system seems, even for almost-six-year-olds, just a little too simplistic for my liking.
And so, not more than a couple of weeks ago, I came up with a nuance. Here's how it came out:
"Did you put any bad guys in jail today, daddy?"
"Well, you know, not all people who do bad things are bad guys."
"Okay," I say. "Sometimes we put bad guys in jail. But most of the time we try to change bad guys into good guys."
"Well, it's better to have more good guys and fewer bad guys, isn't it?"
"Sure." Pause for thought. "Because with more good guys you can catch more bad guys and put them in jail?"
Still, it seemed like progress.