Durham is an oasis of progressive (forward thinking) values in North Carolina. We have the opportunity to build upon the programs that are beginning to address the systemic and institutional inequities inherent in our current court system.
We can only do this if the court process is applied fairly to every person that comes in contact with our justice system.
People are not the sum of their worst mistakes, including those that find themselves involved with our criminal legal system. Providing opportunity for people who have made minor offenses to stay out of the criminal legal system is an important step in reforming what criminal justice looks like. Opportunities for change exist on the front and back end of our criminal legal system.
On the front end, first and foremost, it is the system's duty to keep our young people from becoming criminalized. Durham’s misdemeanor diversion court (prior to being criminally charged) is a perfect example, and one that I support expanding. People need the opportunity to be held accountable without that process ruining their lives.
We can only do this if we hold people accountable in an equitable fashion.
On the back end, people deserve the opportunity to lead productive lives after they have paid their debt to society. We cannot continue to punish people for being punished. I support programs and projects that help those justice-involved individuals overcome the collateral consequences of contact with the criminal legal system. The criminal legal system should allow people who have already been punished to overcome the second-class status that people with criminal records currently endure.
Once elected, I will honor my duty to apply the law fairly and equitably when an individual must be held accountable by the state. Where I have discretion, I will take that responsibility seriously and with concern for the well being of our community. I will draw from my experience as an indigent defense attorney, a civil rights attorney, a victim of gun violence, a husband, a father, and a member of the community to make the best informed decisions possible.
Finally, the courts must be equitable. The law provides mechanisms which are designed to ensure that outcomes are not determined by wealth. The criminalization of poverty is unconstitutional and must not be tolerated in our court system. I will be a judge that has demonstrated instituting solutions with a racial equity analysis, a judge that has a demonstrated commitment to working with those most affected by the criminal legal system, a judge that can empathize with victims of violent crimes, and a judge willing to seek solutions that have yet to be tried.