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Deployed Lakenheath captain helps shape Afghan legal system

Capt. John-Charles Laws, U.S. Forces Afghanistan National Security Justice Development Directive legal advisor, poses for a photo Jan. 4, 2018 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Capt. John-Charles Laws, U.S. Forces Afghanistan National Security Justice Development Directive legal advisor, poses for a photo Jan. 4, 2018 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Laws is responsible for providing advice and helping shape the Afghan legal system, which is currently under construction. The 955th Air Expeditionary Squadron provides support to all Joint Expeditionary Tasked /Individual Augmentee Airmen deployed to BAF. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Divine Cox)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- A country’s criminal justice system is the set of agencies and processes established by governments to control crime and impose penalties on those who violate laws.

Capt. John-Charles Laws, U.S. Forces Afghanistan National Security Justice Development Directive legal advisor, has a unique job providing advice and helping shape the Afghan legal system at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Laws is also assigned to the 955th Air Expeditionary Squadron which provides Joint Expeditionary Tasked and Individual Augmentee Airmen to Tactical Control Ground Component Commanders and Joint/Combined organizations across Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission.

“Here at BAF, my job is to assist U.S. Army Lt. Col. Derek Shoup, chief counsel of USFOR-A/NSJDD, as part of the USFOR-A/NSJDD train, advise and assist mission to the Parwan Prison,” said Laws.

The Parwan Prison is Afghanistan's main military prison that houses foreign and local combatants, and is maintained by the Afghan National Army.

According to Laws, a lot of his time is spent viewing the prison detainee files.

“My day-to-day includes key leader engagements with the judges and prosecutors at the justice center adjacent to the prison,” said Laws. “After that, it is a lot of detainee file reviews and compiling of data about the different trials and detainees.”

According to Chief Master Sgt. Michael Sullivan, 955th Air Expeditionary Squadron superintendent, Laws’ positon is critical to mission success of the 955th AES and USFOR-A.

"Laws provides critical legal support that helps strengthen Afghanistan's ability to enforce their criminal code in a consistent manner,” said Sullivan. “He identifies and provides releasable evidence of crimes to the local prosecutors, which increases sentence lengths and prevents the reentry of terrorists onto the battlefield. Additionally, he reviews prisoner case files to help ensure that prisoners serve out their full sentences, especially when they have attacked Coalition Forces.”

Hailing from Phoenix, Ariz., Laws is currently deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, has been in the Air Force for two years and is excited to be deployed and serving his country.

“I joined the Air Force to serve my country and that is exactly what I am doing,” said Laws. “I also am afforded the ability to use the skills I’ve acquired while working in a unique environment on a national and international scale.”

Currently, the legal system of Afghanistan consists of Islamic, statutory and customary rules while the judicial system is still under construction.

“The Afghans are still trying to establish a justice system,” said Laws. “It’s important that we are here because our train, advise and assist mission helps ensure the steady growth of the Afghan legal system into a standardized and effective justice system, which can be relied upon to handle the unique legal needs of Afghanistan.”

Laws said the most rewarding part of his job is working with our Afghan partners on a daily basis.

“The overall mission of the NSJDD is to promote national security through development of a justice system on both the detention side and the legal side,” said Laws. “If I wasn’t here, we would lose a vital avenue of communication between the U.S. and our Afghan partners who are working to improve and solidify the place of the justice system in Afghanistan.”