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Reclaim the System | Repair Community Relationships | Restore Confidence and Integrity

AZ Republic Voters Guide For August 4 Primary

CIVIL RIGHTS

How do you plan to repair the office’s reputation among communities of color and build trust?

The first step is for the next Maricopa County Attorney to publicly acknowledge that the office has failed communities of color, as well as the indigent. We cannot address systemic racism until we can have honest conversations about its causes. Over the long term, trust can only be earned by delivering tangible results.

My priorities are to:

  • Build an empowered oversight board to give communities of color a voice in how they are policed, and to hold police accountable;
  • Commit to transparency.  Publish information of public interest, including “no call” lists of law officers with disciplinary records that make them unacceptable witnesses at trial.
  • Stop criminalizing addiction and poverty.  Decline all cases involving simple possession or minor property offenses;
  • Stop criminalizing children, and end the school-to-prison pipeline;
  • Remove unconscious bias from charging decisions with an independent intake division;
  • Consider all collateral consequences, to individuals, families and communities, in making charging decisions.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE / PUBLIC SAFETY

What improvements will you make in the office to serve victims? 

I am committed to improving witness service programs and prioritizing clear, transparent communication with victims and their families. And I promise to make sure victim support does not leave out marginalized individuals who have reason to fear cooperating with authorities. This includes victims of crime at the hands of law enforcement personnel. Allegations of police misconduct must be investigated thoroughly and independently, and when the case involves the immigrant community, our office will petition for witness cooperation and crime victim visas, so victims do not need to fear cooperating with the courts.

I am also committed to not criminalizing victims. Prosecuting sex workers, for example, further stigmatizes and marginalizes them, making it even more difficult to investigate and prevent sexual violence.

Finally, I will implement sentencing alternatives such as restorative justice, which empowers victims and helps them to heal while giving offenders the opportunity to understand the impact of their actions, take responsibility and work to repair the damage they have created.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE / PUBLIC SAFETY

How will you ensure that defendants are treated fairly?

For too long the county attorney’s office has had a one-size-fits all approach, but fairness does not mean “treating everybody the same.” People are not the same. Defendants are not the same. We need to see not only the details of the offense, but also the whole person standing up in court. Does the defendant have a history of childhood trauma or poverty, or a mental health issue that would be more properly addressed outside the justice system? How can we address the harm caused and make sure it doesn’t happen again?

I believe in second chances. A person should not be defined by their worst moment. Harm needs to be addressed, and punishment may include prison. But we must also account for a defendant’s individual circumstances and ability to change.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE / PUBLIC SAFETY

Do you believe MCAO needs a conviction integrity unit to investigate wrongful convictions? Explain your answer.

Yes. Because we know that overly aggressive prosecution by this office has resulted in wrongful convictions, we must build a completely independent unit to investigate credible evidence of wrongful convictions. This unit will report directly to me, with full transparency and cooperation with my Community Oversight Board.

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE / PUBLIC SAFETY

What is your position on criminal justice reforms? What steps would your office take in that area?

After weeks of peaceful, persistent protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, criminal justice reform is the most important issue facing not just the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, but the nation as a whole. Among all candidates for this office, I have the most comprehensive, ambitious plan to end mass incarceration. But I also understand that systemic racism cannot be solved by one person, or one election. We need committed public servants at every level of government to move toward justice.

DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS

What specific steps will you take to make sure prosecutors are acting ethically? 

This is a big issue for me. I believe that the county attorney’s office has not done enough to train prosecutors in their ethical duties and obligations. My priority is to create a culture where the primary goal is to seek justice, not convictions. I will never reward prosecutors for the number of cases they close or the length of sentences they achieve. When the office “wins” and justice is served, it should be a somber moment for all. Policies and procedures must be rebuilt around the new priorities. Prosecutors will be required to fully investigate cases submitted by law enforcement independently — simply reviewing a police report is not enough. This avoids wasting the courts’ time and taxpayers’ money, and reduces the chances of a conviction being overturned on appeal.

DRUG POLICY

What is your position on enforcing low-level drug possession crimes?

This issue is about much more than marijuana. You can’t punish people into treatment, and the medical community and thought leaders on both sides of the aisle agree that relying on the criminal justice system to manage mental health issues has contributed to the death rate of the opioid epidemic.

As county attorney, I will support legislation to legalize recreational marijuana use and support diversion programs for all low-level drug offenses. I will treat addiction as an illness, not a crime, and commit to charging a cite-and-release misdemeanor for low-level possession offenses, and to not overcharging overdose cases as homicides. Treating addiction in our communities requires a thoughtful, comprehensive approach. Our criminal justice system is not equipped to do that, and we need to stop pretending that it is.

PUBLIC POLICY

What is the single biggest issue facing the county attorney’s office, and how would you address it?

The single biggest issue facing the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is nothing less than a historic reckoning with its role in perpetuating the mass incarceration crisis. For decades its priorities have been warped by opportunistic politicians who stoke citizens’ fears and beat the tough-on-crime drum to gain office, regardless of the ever-growing burden their policies have placed on marginalized communities. I am not looking to be Maricopa County’s “Top Cop,” as I still hear sometimes on the campaign trail, but its Chief Justice Enforcement Officer, guided by the best interests of the community as a whole. That means prioritizing public safety by aggressively prosecuting violent crimes, but more importantly, it means ceasing to “throw the book” at non-dangerous offenders, who often are struggling with common mental health conditions and addiction. I plan to use my prosecutorial discretion to reduce the county’s incarceration rate by 50% over four years, saving up to $400 million statewide. This will free up resources for diversion programs, educational opportunities, drug treatment, and other vital services.

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