Football Brings Georgian Prosecutors Closer to Community
MTSKHETA, Georgia—A football match recently played here before a national television audience illustrates that prosecutors can change the way they work. The match was the final game of a remarkable tournament that pitted prosecutors against high school students, police officers against juvenile probationers, and municipal officials against staff and juveniles of a local orphanage—all part of a community prosecution project undertaken jointly by the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Open Society Georgia Foundation, and the Office of the Prosecutor-General of Georgia.
Community prosecution emphasizes community involvement in identifying crime and related problems. Key components of community prosecution are the addition of crime prevention to prosecutors' mission, and prosecutors' partnership with—and accountability to—citizens in local communities.
In Georgia, where there has been a historical divide between citizens and state officials, public trust in the criminal justice system is low. This inhibits members of the public from reporting crime and testifying in court. Through the project, prosecutors in this regional center are forging closer ties with local residents, considering public needs and concerns when setting priorities, adopting a proactive approach to certain crime problems, and addressing some of the underlying causes of public insecurity.
Giving teenagers and law enforcement officials a chance to be teammates rather than antagonists proved an effective means for project organizers to foster better relations between juveniles and law enforcement agencies in Mtskheta. The teams played in front of large crowds and attracted national television coverage. Prominently on display at the matches were banners with anti-crime messages produced by the Mtskheta prosecutors' office, as well as anti-violence posters produced by local school children. The juvenile teams wore T-shirts sporting "Juveniles Against Violence" slogans.
The project's Mtskheta pilot site has been so successful in improving prosecutor-community relations that the prosecutor-general is considering the launch of a second pilot site in another part of Georgia later this year.