As the only civil rights lawyer in the race to become Norfolk’s new Commonwealth’s Attorney, my perspective on the criminal justice system is completely different from either of my opponents.
I see firsthand every single day how judicial outcomes are often dictated by the amount of money a person or their family has. While indiscretions committed by children of the privileged are usually swept under the rug through insider deals, children in our poorer neighborhoods have their conduct criminalized to the greatest extent possible. It’s not right. I’ll put a stop to mass incarceration in Norfolk by having one of the attorneys in my office on call 24/7 to supervise the charging decisions of every police officer. That means no more piling on charges for poor black and brown kids to boost on their backs the police department’s stats.
I’m the only candidate in this race who realizes the importance of bail reform. We must move away from our centuries-old cash bail system so that everyone – not just the wealthy – can be afforded the ability to form a proper defense. Although this proposal is bound to make the people who profit from incarcerating our youth more than just a little angry, it’s a fight I’m willing to take on.
I’m the first (and only) candidate in this race to come out publicly in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. My office will focus on fighting violent crime rather than busting kids for smoking joints. I have also pledged to never support any arrest based on the unfounded suspicion of the scent of marijuana. We must ensure that on-duty police officers never get a free pass when they forget to keep their body-cameras rolling. I will also end the current Commonwealth’s Attorney’s routine practice of initiating civil asset forfeiture proceedings without first securing a criminal conviction.
I’m the only candidate in this race to call for a liaison officer from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to the Norfolk LGBTQ community – a move that would be a first in all of Hampton Roads. As the president of Hampton Roads Pride has recently stated, “Norfolk will become safer and more equitable place to live and work because of the historic appointment of an LGBTQ liaison officer in the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. This is a positive step forward for all.”
The over-incarceration of our youth is by far the most pressing problem Norfolk’s next Commonwealth’s Attorney must address. As Ava DuVernay’s groundbreaking documentary, “13th,” has recently shown us, locking up non-violent youth for frivolous reasons has a long history and can be traced directly back to the Jim Crow era. Once a young person acquires a criminal record – even for relatively minor, non-violent offenses – the chances of that person going on to become a productive, tax-paying member of our society are slim. This is called the “school-to-prison pipeline.” It is very difficult for young people with criminal records to get a job. Once a person’s ability to go out and get a job is lessened, the higher the chance that the person will resort to selling drugs or committing violent acts to make ends meet. Instead of focusing our resources on fighting violent crime – and stopping the individuals who would entice or youth into that kind of lifestyle – the current Commonwealth’s Attorney has chosen to focus on incarcerating our youth. As we see nearly every day on the front page of the paper, the results have been disastrous.
It’s time for the Democratic Party to nominate proven progressives to be torch-bearers at every level of government. As the only candidate in this race who has actually been in the courtroom fighting these battles, I hope on June 13th you’ll agree that I’m the best candidate to move Norfolk forward. I would be honored to have your support as I seek to become Norfolk’s new Commonwealth’s Attorney.