Sitting in Yamawaki with his suit and dreadlocks, guest speaker Adam Foss, Assistant District Attorney in the Juvenile Division of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, led the final discussion of Lasell’s “Conversations to Honor Black History: Does Race (Still) Matter?” Professor Jennifer Drew hosted the talk on Thursday, February 27th during common hours.
The 34-year-old Assistant DA wears a slim fit suit and sports a trimmed beard with dreadlocks hanging past his waist. When asked if he will ever cut his dreadlocks, the answer is always no.
“I never want to work at a place where my merit is based on my appearance,” said Foss as he hopes to break the stereotype of what an attorney should look like.
Foss studied law at Suffolk University and graduated Cum Laude in 2008 after earning his biology degree from UMass Amherst. Soon after his time at Suffolk, Foss became a defense attorney in the Roxbury area. It opened his eyes to the crime and the acceptance of it in the community.
Foss’ first experience defending someone began at the sixth floor of the Nashua Street Jail in Boston, also known as “the murder floor”. After talking to the accused, Foss came to realize the man he was defending was like any other person. “People accused of doing even the worst stuff are still people,” said Foss. “This is why I wanted to do this.”
Foss went on to say that 99 percent of the people in prison are led to crime because of life circumstances while one percent was born criminals. “Many prosecutors and DA’s have never met anyone involved with drugs, prostitution, or homelessness, but they have all these stereotypes,” said Foss.
Foss was doing well defending, but he felt he was not particularly making a difference. He would be on the other side of the law as a prosecutor, but his goal was not to stick people in jail.
“I tell prosecutors, ‘As we sit here right now, we have more incarcerations than any other country,” said Foss. He believes the old logic of “hitting hard on crime” is only making things worse. Instead, Foss wants those troubled by crime and addiction to seek help through programs, rather than be thrown into jail.
What Foss believes will help reduce crime is intervening young; good education is key in helping children stay on the right track. But the current education system and home support is not providing positive environments for children. “There’s no reason for kids to travel outside of their community to get a good education,” said Foss. Changing school systems, Foss believes, will set children on the right path, reducing future crime and as well as prejudice.
At the end of the discussion, Foss encouraged the students in attendance to help make a difference. “Every single day, you have an impact on a person’s life,” said Foss.