Citizen Prosecutor Academy welcomes third class at introductory ceremony
Last Thursday, District Attorney Craig Watkins, along with distinguished guests, welcomed in the Fall 2013 Citizen Prosecutor Academy (CPA) class. The CPA is an initiative of the Community Prosecution Unit (CPU), celebrating its third class this fall.
The Academy is a twelve-week instructional program that provides insight to the numerous divisions of the District Attorney’s office. Each week, the class is taught about a particular division of the DA’s office, led by an assistant district attorney within that division. This provides the class with the opportunity to learn about the material from a first-hand perspective, utilizing real world experiences and cases that have been prosecuted by the office.
The program is facilitated by the prosecutors in the Community Prosecution Unit, led by CPU Chief Rachael Jones, and Community Relations Liaison and program creator James Tate. The faculty advises during each class to provide support and stability throughout the program. The participants also have the opportunity to meet and develop a relationship with their own community prosecutor that is assigned to each geographical location in the county: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest.
“I am honored that citizens throughout Dallas County would take time out of their busy days to learn about the important work we do here,” said District Attorney Watkins. ”I am confident that they will all leave the program with a concrete understanding of the criminal justice process and the many ways in which we fight to protect their communities.”
The desire to participate in the Academy continues to grow. The Fall 2013 class reached 48 class members, up from 36 last fall. CPU Chief Rachael Jones attributes the growth to the awareness of the Academy, and to citizens wanting to take a more active role in their communities. ”The growth in the class is just another indicator of how interested citizens are in our criminal justice system,” said Jones. ”We want to make sure we have the appropriate resources to make Dallas County a safer place for us all to live.”
Community leaders were invited from around the county to help welcome the participants. University Park Mayor Richard Davis, and Grand Prairie Chief of Police Steve Dye were among the guest speakers. The Honorable Roberto Cañas, who presides over County Criminal Court No. 10, offered words of encouragement to the incoming class. Judge Cañas has graciously offered his courtroom for the class meetings every Thursday.
Classes will regularly meet every Thursday in the Frank Crowley Courts Building, with the exception of two field trips. As part of the class discussion on the Conviction Integrity Unit, the class will enjoy a tour of the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences (SWIFS), where most DNA testing is done. The Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center has agreed to host the class for the discussion of child abuse and family violence. Participants will also have the opportunity to tour the jail facilities at Lew Sterrett.