Platform for Change

My vision for a new direction as District Attorney is to promote integrity and accountability, to restore the community’s trust, confidence, and perception of the office, and to ensure fairness and justice for all. My platform for change calls for progressive reforms to modernize the DA’s office and restore faith as "The People’s DA." My 5-Point Plan for Reform addresses the challenges that have persisted and outlines specific, strategic, and measurable solutions for reform. 

The plan starts with strengthening efforts to end corruption.  In speaking with residents across Hidalgo County, the overwhelming majority are fed up with recent news of corruption by public officials.  What has the DA done to end corruption?  What are his plans to fix this problem?  The current DA's plan is to do the same thing that's been done for over 30 years.  It has not worked.

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Public corruption must be challenged and having a strong Public Integrity unit at the District Attorney's office will ensure elected officials are held accountable to the law. The DA’s office cannot operate in isolation or with a "my way or the highway" attitude. Building stronger relationships with law enforcement will strengthen the prosecution of cases, minimizing acquittals and the pressure to accept plea bargains for lesser crimes while ensuring justice is served. This effort would include a multi-agency task force to work more closely with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

The current DA claims he has more experience, but quantity does not equal quality. Experience does not equal effectiveness. Only four out of ten of all felony cases predisposed in district courts actually results in a conviction. The DA's office convicts less than 40% of violent sexual crimes against adults and children. Only 33% of indecency with a child and sexual assault of a child cases  result in successful convictions. 

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This is unacceptable. Furthermore, the DA's office does not have an adequate system in place for victims' assistance. Due to a spelling mistake on a grant application in 2012, the funding for the program was scrapped. According to the DA himself, secretaries to prosecutors are assigned the task of providing assistance to victims.  

By minimizing the backlog of low-level drug offenses, the DA will be better able to assign veteran prosecutors the resources they need to fully prosecute child abuse, sex abuse and domestic violence cases. 

Treating victims with the compassion and support they deserve, while ensuring they are kept informed on the progress of their cases and that their cooperation with the prosecution does not incur intimidation, is crucial to ensuring justice. Reforms would also require follow-up plans to help victims get back to living healthy lives without fear.

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On trying juveniles, the current DA has a punitive, not preventive, mentality.  He has said he wants to "send a message" to criminals by punishing juvenile suspects in adult court. According to experts, however, "children tried and convicted as adults are more likely to reoffend once they are released from prison" (Cyn Yamashiro, director of the Center for Juvenile Law and Policy at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles).

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Juvenile offenders need immediate intervention that includes structure, educational support and social services to ensure their entry into the system does not turn them into lifelong offenders. We have a responsibility to our youth to steer them in the right direction and help them should they go astray.  

There are better ways to serve justice than by locking people up and throwing away the key. Research from conservative think tanks have shown that alternative sentencing that includes drug treatment, counseling and community service increases the likelihood offenders becoming productive members of society all at a significantly lower cost to taxpayers. 

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From homeless, to veterans, to those who fall through the cracks — we must stop incarcerating those with mental health issues and provide the proper support, structure and environment they need to ensure they are not a danger to themselves or to others and live as independently as possible at less expense to the taxpayer.  Effective alternative treatment courts such as the drug court, DWI court, and Veterans court target specialized populations and employ evidence-based strategies to curb repeat offending while getting people the help they need. The current DA is out of touch with current research trends, especially in the mental health arena. For example, he has said that he does not "buy it" that injuries to the brain sustained in combat could potentially make Veterans more susceptible to violence. Dismissing the severity of issues such as mental illness is harmful to our Veterans, to our society, and to our future.

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Lower waste and inefficiencies that crowd our jails and cause an increased burden on taxpayers. Immediate reforms that have proven successful in other communities include mental health courts and 24-7 magistration of cases at jail to expedite trials. New technologies should also be adopted to identify high crime areas where law enforcement and the DA’s office can work together to implement effective prevention programs to reduce crime. Effective and frequent communication to the public will also ensure that residents are kept abreast and informed on the office’s performance.

I look forward to implementing this plan when elected your District Attorney.  Thank you for your support!

 

 

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