Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Midland DA touts drug-reform themes

The Brooklyn District Attorney's race will be decided today in a Democratic primary which has been most notable for the various candidates competing with one another for the mantle of Reform Prosecutor. Check out this remarkable video produce on the prosecutor's role, released leading up to the election:

But debates over criminal-justice are bipartisan, and so are demands that prosecutors change their priorities. As an example, check out this op ed by the District Attorney in Midland, Texas, Lauren Nodolf, calling for prioritizing prosecution of serious crime and diverting drug offenders out of jails and prisons. She wrote:
warehousing non-violent offenders is costly to Midlanders, does not contribute positively to public safety, and does not lead the perpetrator to take responsibility for their actions. Violent offenders, on the other hand, need to be tried expediently and incarcerated sufficiently to protect the community.
Long-time readers will recall that former Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter was the state's foremost advocate of regional narcotics task forces, which were defunded and closed by Gov. Rick Perry after a series of scandals beginning with the Tulia drug stings. Those entities were all about rounding up the maximum number of low-level drug users for incarceration. So the fact that the DA in Midland opined in the newspaper against "warehousing non-violent offenders" demonstrates the terms of debate are changing around the justice system and prosecutors' role. Fifteen years ago, this would have been a highly controversial stance; today it's almost a snoozer.

There were one or two odd notes in the column, including a reference to "rising crime rates." I say "odd" because index crimes declined from 2015 to 2016 at both the Midland PD and the Midland County Sheriff. And the rate at which index crimes were reported to Midland PD, in particular, declined by 25 percent from 2010 to 2016. (Source)

And, to be sure, Nodolf's reformist tendencies pale compared to some of the suggestions by DA candidates in Brooklyn. I don't want to overstate the case. But overall, it's remarkable that a Midland Co. DA would feel any inclination to tip her hat to reform themes, and evidence that prosecutors around the country are reacting to reform proposals much differently and more thoughtfully than in the past.

1 comment:

Steven Michael Seys said...

It's heartening to see the district attorneys begin to sync with the general population opinion on justice reform. However, I am not surprised by the use of fear mongering tactics by any politician running a campaign. The mainstream media get their readership, or click rate, by using this too. The problem of fake news is real, and has been ongoing for more than a century. Look into the yellow journalism that led up to the Spanish American War in 1898 for an early example.