Sean Kittrell has been a federal prosecutor for more than two decades. He packs a gun in Charleston, South Carolina, where he’s known as a “traditional, old-school, tough-as-nails violent crime and drug prosecutor,” according to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, a top Justice Department official in Washington.
“I have spent a lifetime putting people in prison,”Kittrell wrote in a recent email. “That is what we are trained to do. I spent my career, in different jobs, using that tool.”
But Kittrell is doing something a little different these days. Awhile back, his boss, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles — the top federal prosecutor in South Carolina — had an idea that Yates described in a recent speech as “a little crazy.” Nettles put Kittrell in charge of his office’s involvement in Turning Leaf Project, a program that offers the incarcerated an alternative to prison.
Kittrell, who was a state prosecutor before joining the Justice Department, was skeptical. “He initially would sort of laugh at me and say, ‘Okay, I’ll do your hug-a-thug program,’” Nettles said in an interview. “He initially did it because I asked him to. He now does it because he believes that it is a way to make communities safer.”Amy Barch, who runs Turning Leaf, said Kittrell had a reputation as a hard-nosed prosecutor.