We need to start focusing on the crimes that do the most harm, not the crimes that put the most people in prison.
For 50 years, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office hasn’t had a mission statement to set its priorities. I will come into that office on day one with a new progressive mission statement, a detailed organizational structure, and a clear focus on the crimes that do the most harm.
People of color in Prince William County and across the country are disproportionately arrested and charged with crimes. To break this trend, I will work closely with local law enforcement, school administration and staff, and community leaders to make sure everyone has the tools and knowledge they need to support the fair administration of justice in Prince William County.
To support this mission, I will make sure the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney hires attorneys and staff who live in and truly represent the diversity of our community. All the attorneys and staff at the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office must be committed to bringing people together to identify problems and find common solutions.
I would also limit the use of cash bonds and instead employ other methods of supervising individuals considered a flight risk. Cash bonds put many families in extreme financial jeopardy and disproportionately harm people and communities of color.
As your next Commonwealth's Attorney, I will establish a comprehensive non-discrimination policy in the office that includes every protected class in Virginia as well as sexual orientation and gender identity, which are currently not protected under Virginia law. It is extremely important to me that my office be a safe and inclusive place for everyone to work, for defendants to stand trial, and for victims of all walks of life to come forward and work with our office to ensure justice is served fairly.
Prince William County has been ranked 2nd in the country for sending the most people to death row. This is an embarrassing statistic. We must have a conversation in our county and state about the role of the death penalty, as it tends to disproportionately affect low income individuals and people of color. Although the death penalty is legal in Virginia, I am personally against it.
RESTORATION OF VOTING RIGHTS
I completely support Governor Terry McAuliffe's executive order restoring voting rights to convicted felons who have served their time and repaid their debts to society. We cannot keep punishing people after they've already completed their sentence.
I was extremely disappointed when our current Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert signed a joint letter with Virginia Republicans criticizing the Governor's decision. I would never have done that -- I would have applauded the Governor's executive order and worked with him and others in our criminal justice system to ensure a smooth implementation of the new policy.
Juveniles will be one of my main focuses when I am your Commonwealth’s Attorney. Juvenile offenders are our future adult offenders, but we have the opportunity to change the trajectory of their lives and prevent them from offending in the future if we pay close attention to them right now.
In order to treat juveniles fairly, I believe the majority of juvenile offenders should not be prosecuted as adults. To prevent juvenile offenders from becoming adult offenders, we must understand that young people are not neurologically fully developed and need our help and support to learn from the mistakes they have made.
I will appoint a prosecutor specifically to oversee cases involving juvenile offenders to ensure that the fair and appropriate disciplinary actions are taken, and that measures are in place to make sure the juvenile does not reoffend.
ADDICTION & MENTAL ILLNESS
Our jails and prisons are the last place we should be sending people with addictions or mental illness. As Commonwealth’s Attorney, I would use every resource at my disposal to help people struggling with addiction and mental illness get the care and rehabilitation they need. I will also make sure our law enforcement is properly trained to handle cases involving offenders and victims with addiction and mental illness so every person we touch is treated with compassion and respect.
As Commonwealth’s Attorney, I will support efforts to combat payroll fraud by prosecuting offenders, including employers in our county, that violate the law and harm law abiding business owners and workers and their families. I have experience representing workers who have been misclassified by their employer as an independent contractor and have been cheated out of earning fair wages and benefits.
As Commonwealth's Attorney, I will prosecute employers, contractors, and large companies that commit wage theft and otherwise mistreat workers. My goal as your next Commonwealth's Attorney will be to focus on crimes that do the most harm -- and that includes crimes where employers are taking advantage of workers and their families.
During my 11 years in the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, the immigrant community was under attack by Republican leaders in so many ways in Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. Under the leadership of Corey Stewart and with the help of anti-immigrant campaigns like “Help Save Manassas,” the 287(g) program was implemented and created an entire class of people that were too afraid to call upon the police when they or their children were victimized by crime.
As a prosecutor in the Special Victim’s Unit in Prince William County at the time, I reached out to members of the immigrant community to let them know they had a safe place to report crimes, seek justice, and be protected from deportation through use of the U-Visa program.
I worked closely with our Victim-Witness program, SAVAS (Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Service), ACTS/Turning Points (Domestic Violence counselors) and others to ensure that victims could come forward and seek protection within the criminal justice system without fear of deportation. I also made sure that defense attorneys consulted with immigration attorneys to avoid deportation and protect families when that was the appropriate course of action.
As your Commonwealth’s Attorney, I will support and protect immigrants in our county and continue to build relationships with community leaders and immigrant groups so all voices are brought to the table to solve problems and keep people safe.
In the vast majority of cases, I will not prosecute non-violent, low level drug possession. We need to stop indiscriminately throwing people in jail or prison for victimless crimes, period.
As the Commonwealth's Attorney, I will actively seek out qualified diverse staff for the office so the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office is reflective of the people of Prince William County, and I will make sure our top prosecutors and staff live in this county and are stakeholders in our community.
My office will work closely with law enforcement, school administration, and community leaders to ensure consistent communication and collaboration with everyone who interacts with the justice system in Prince William County.
Right now, Prince William County and Manassas City are building an extension to the existing adult detention facility. I firmly believe that building more jails and prisons is never the answer. We need to start diverting people away from the prison system and into educational, rehabilitation, and psychological care programs that prevent our prison population from continuing to skyrocket.
Not only is it costly to hold so many individuals in our jails and prisons, it’s completely unnecessary. Many currently incarcerated individuals do not pose a violent threat to our society. It’s time we stop contributing to the prison industrial complex in Prince William County and start prosecuting responsibly.