WE DESERVE BETTER:

A PLATFORM FOR A FAIRER AND SAFER DURHAM

 

These are fundamental reforms that are part of a national trend to help District Attorneys’ offices be allies in building safe and fair communities.  This is urgently needed in Durham County.  In particular we thank Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and other DA’s across the country for inspiring this platform.

WE DESERVE BETTER:

 

A PLATFORM FOR A FAIRER AND SAFER DURHAM

These are fundamental reforms that are part of a national trend to help District Attorneys’ offices be allies in building safe and fair communities.  This is urgently needed in Durham County.  In particular we thank Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and other DA’s across the country for inspiring this platform.

Satana will:

USE A COMMON-SENSE APPROACH FOR MINOR OFFENSES

CONCENTRATE RESOURCES ON THOSE WHO MUST BE IN PRISON

ADDRESS RACIAL BIAS IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

COMMIT TO PROTECTING AND SUPPORTING OUR CHILDREN TOGETHER

BUILD STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF DURHAM AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

Satana will:

USE A COMMON-SENSE APPROACH FOR MINOR OFFENSES

CONCENTRATE RESOURCES ON THOSE WHO MUST BE IN PRISON

ADDRESS RACIAL BIAS IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

COMMIT TO PROTECTING AND SUPPORTING OUR CHILDREN TOGETHER

BUILD STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF DURHAM AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

1. USE A COMMON-SENSE APPROACH FOR MINOR OFFENSES

Stop cash bail imprisonment

Most of the people in Durham’s jail have not been convicted. They just cannot afford to pay their bail while they wait for their trial. This is expensive to taxpayers.  We pay about $126 per day per inmate for those who are charged with misdemeanor and non-violent offenses.  Suspects who are dangerous to the public must absolutely still be in jail.  When that is not the case, Satana will work with judges to implement alternatives to cash bail and the current bond schedule, as appropriate. This keeps more people at their jobs, with their families, and contributing to their communities.

Divert people with addiction and mental health issues to treatment not jail

Since 2013, six people have died in the Durham County jail – including a 17-year-old girl.  None of the people who died had been convicted of a crime. All had either mental health or substance abuse issues or both.

Substance addiction and mental illness call for treatment. Incarceration does not get to the root of the problem.  The Durham County jail does not have the resources to address these medical conditions in an effective way. As District Attorney, Satana will increase focus on the key roles of both drug court and diversion wherever appropriate. 

Address Jail Overcrowding

The Durham County Jail is overcrowded, unsanitary, and dangerous.  Satana will prioritize working with the Sheriff’s Office to drastically decrease the daily census count at the jail.

2. CONCENTRATE RESOURCES ON THOSE WHO MUST BE IN PRISON

Focus on the crimes that keep us unsafe

Those who commit violent crimes must be held fully responsible and accountable for their actions.  It is currently taking 3-4 years for serious and violent cases to be brought to trial. Victims and their families suffer, coming to court time after time, only to see trials delayed. And the same is true for defendants. Meanwhile, the current District Attorney is spending an inordinate amount of time and money on minor property crimes and minor drug offenses. Satana will work for more common sense-based policing and ensure necessary resources are directed to prosecute the most serious crimes such as homicide, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

Stop prosecuting insufficient and insignificant cases

The District Attorney’s office mindlessly prosecutes cases that do not have sufficient evidence when forwarded by the City of Durham Police Department and the Durham County Sheriff’s Department.  Because the District Attorney controls the criminal court docket, this clogs the courts, leads to delayed trials, and contributes to Durham’s high incarceration rate. This over-prosecution reproduces the racially biased criminal justice outcomes that have plagued Durham for decades. Satana will, where appropriate, not elect to prosecute such cases and will advocate for and initiate programs that divert people from the jail and courts.

 

Act on wrongful convictions

Satana will prioritize the public release of evidence that might allow an innocent person to go free. This includes staffing the office with prosecutors who are not associated with the corrupt and untrustworthy patterns of the previous District Attorney’s office. Satana will share all evidence that might exonerate someone with the defense at all levels of the court system. Police officers proven to have lied will be not be called on to testify.  Satana will also extend the policy of open file discovery to District Court and misdemeanors.

Review past convictions, address the wrongfully convicted

Satana will make it a priority to publicly release evidence that might allow an innocent person to go free. That includes staffing the office with prosecutors who were not associated with the corrupt and untrustworthy patterns of the previous District Attorney’s office. To prevent wrongful convictions in the future, Satana will ensure that all potentially exculpatory evidence be shared with the defense at all levels of the court system. Police officers proven to have lied will be not be called on to testify.  Satana will also extend the policy of open file discovery to District Court and misdemeanors.

3. ADDRESS RACIAL BIAS IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

No matter who has been the District Attorney in Durham County or what programs have been implemented, we have the same criminal justice outcomes we had 50 years ago.  That means the District Attorney continues to overprosecute people based on race and socioeconomic status.  In addition to being overcrowded, the jail is disproportionately filled with black people.  Black people, who make up only 38 percent of Durham’s population, make up 80 percent of the people in jail.  Satana will prioritize working with the courts and  Sheriff’s Office to drastically decrease the daily census count at the jail.  Satana will also ensure that there is fairness in the prosecutorial decision making process by requiring routine implicit bias training for prosecutors; routine review of data to expose and address racial inequity; and the incorporation of racial impact review in performance review for individual prosecutors. Satana will work with community partners to create meaningful guidance to prosecutors on reducing the impact of implicit bias in prosecution.

4. COMMIT TO PROTECTING AND SUPPORTING OUR CHILDREN TOGETHER

Stop prosecuting children in adult court

The Durham District Attorney has prosecuted children as young as 13 years old in adult court.  As a parent, Satana knows that children are not cognitively able to appreciate the long term consequences of their actions.  As a community member, Satana know that we all suffer when we incarcerate our children and saddle them with the long term consequences of a criminal record and the often permanent emotional scars of incarceration rather than educating and supporting them. Satana will immediately end the practice of prosecuting children under 18 in adult court.

End referrals from school based incidents

Many children enter the criminal justice system through school based referrals.  Our children should feel safe in school – that includes feeling safe from law enforcement activity.  Satana will work with the schools to provide more effective and restorative services to those children who desperately need it.  Satana will work with the juvenile court to provide more diversion programs so that many cases that now jeopardize the future of our children never reach court.

5. BUILD STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF DURHAM AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

Bring police and communities together

Reform only happens where there is trust.  Abusive, divisive, and unpredictable law enforcement behavior divides police and the neighborhoods they are charged with protecting – increasing unnecessary conflict and making police work more dangerous. Satana will work with the Durham law enforcement community to reform divisive law enforcement tactics while holding suspects and police officers equally accountable as the law requires. Victims of crime, their families, our communities and all suspects deserve transparency and fairness in determining the truth and holding each other accountable.

Reflect community values

Durham is a special place.  We value the input of the communities most significantly affected by violence and mass incarceration.  Satana also values the power and opportunity of restorative justice programs.  To that end, as District Attorney, Satana’s office will lead the formation of a community based task force to study and make recommendations around prosecutorial and diversion policy.  The task force will consist of criminal justice reform experts, defense groups, service providers, law enforcement, formerly incarcerated individuals, clergy and community leaders – all focused on creating policies for a safer and more equitable criminal justice process in Durham County.

Reject cases built on police misconduct

While Satana believes most police officers are professionals who respect the rights of the public.  Yet as we have seen too often, both nationally and locally, police abuse of authority is far too common. Media and other pressure can improve both the culture and policies of local law enforcement. However, few actors in the criminal justice system have the power and discretion of the District Attorney to demand and enforce accountability. As District Attorney, Satana commits to be an agent of reform by working with law enforcement to protecting suspects from abusive or discriminatory actions by the police, by prosecuting police when necessary, and by making the case that good policing is most effective when communities feel safe from police misconduct

Prioritize the needs of victims and survivors

The current Durham District Attorney’s office does not prioritize the needs of victims. Survivors and victims can spend months, even years, without any resolution to their cases and no communication.  Responses to violence should be centered on the needs of survivors and based on accountability and developed in consultation with victims, advocates, community stakeholders and experts. Satana will expand support of victim/witness service programs – especially in cases of sexual and intimate partner violence, and improve communication with victims and family members.

Lead a more transparent and responsive culture in the District Attorney's Office

The current structure and personnel of the Durham County District Attorney’s Office is a mystery.  There is no way for the public to find out who works there.  It is difficult for attorneys to understand the hierarchy of the office and where decision making occurs.  Satana will lead a culture of transparency and trust in the office.  It will be clear how decisions are made and who has the authority to make charging and plea decisions.

Protect immigrants as valuable members of our community

Durham has a large and thriving immigrant community. Satana is dedicated to increasing trust between immigrants and police — because cooperation is essential to law enforcement. As District Attorney, she will work to protect the rights of all residents. Because legal proceedings can drastically affect the status of immigrants, Satana will take those effects into account when making prosecutorial decisions and setting prosecutorial policy. Satana will also continue the practice of signing U visas for crime victims. She will take steps to train prosecutors in the collateral consequences of charges against immigrant defendants.   She will also increase awareness of the unfairness of traffic court to immigrant and non-English speaking participants and expand amnesty opportunities for people with suspended or revoked licenses.