Gandhi for Prosecutor?

November 04, 2014

Walking through downtown Jefferson City, Missouri, on the 4th of July, I examined the various vendors. Frozen drinks, oven-fired pizza, Jamaican jerk, local artists, and politicians. One political booth quickly captured my attention.

Gandhi for Prosecutor

"Not sure Gandhi would make a good prosecutor," I joked to my family. "All that forgiveness, peace, and loving stuff would probably get in the way."

Finding it funny, I ventured to the booth and met the candidate, Anji Gandhi. Running as an independent, she had to collect signatures just to get on the ballot. I signed the form even though I had no idea if I would vote for her (though I later decided to vote for her). But I believe we need to break past the two-party system and I remain especially troubled by partisanship in races for prosecutors, judges, and similar offices. I also picked up a can holder so I could still chuckle about imagining Mahatma Gandhi as a prosecutor.

The more I thought about it, I started to doubt the humor of my Gandhi joke. Perhaps I was erring in trying to create a black-and-white dichotomy between justice and reconciliation. What if justice can't be found by merely locking people up? What if justice means more than a high conviction rate?

Interestingly, as I considered these issues, I learned that local candidate Anji Gandhi is actually a great-great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi! And it turns out she might try to incorporate some of his ideas.

"The prosecutor’s job is to seek justice," Anji Gandhi told the Jefferson City News-Tribune. "I think that can be misinterpreted as to seek convictions - and that’s not the case, because sometimes that’s not justice. Our job is to make sure that, whenever crime happens, the right person is charged, the right person is charged correctly and that the outcome fits the crime.”

“My priority is the victim in any given case, because that’s who we’re doing the case for,” she added. “If your priority becomes skewed or you don’t really look at the victim first, it’s easy to lose touch with them.

Perhaps her sense of justice won't make her a good prosecutor in traditional terms. But it seems like the type of prosecutor - and judge - we need. The U.S. model of locking lots of people up isn't bringing justice or peace or even security. Perhaps we need to think more carefully justice and even imagine what Mahatma Gandhi would do as prosecutor. His words gives us some clues.

"Justice that love gives is a surrender, justice that law gives is a punishment." 

"There is a higher court than the courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts." 

"We who seek justice will have to do justice to others."

"We win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party."

Mahatma Gandhi as prosecutor would sure shake things up. Perhaps that's exactly what our society needs!