Originally published on AL.com
The ACLU of Alabama, Alabama Civic Engagement Coalition, Alabama Justice Initiative, Faith in Action, and Greater Birmingham Ministries came together to engage in your race because the stakes are high for all Jefferson County residents. We all have a history of working for criminal justice reform and for supporting the rights of all Alabamians. As Jefferson County’s next District Attorney, we urge you to protect those rights. During this election, voters spoke out. Polling from August 2018 shows 79 percent of Alabama voters want candidates who support criminal justice reform. They want change. They want smart justice. We ask you to listen to what voters want because they’re relying on you to lead the way in promoting justice, ensuring fairness, and enhancing public safety for all.
My partners and I urge you now to adopt those smart justice practices you talked about during your campaign:
“We need to look at how we approach marijuana possession cases. I never said I was absolutely NOT going to prosecute them. Maybe treat the small amount of marijuana cases like a traffic citation. Jail for small amounts of marijuana is a no-no.” (Beth Shelburne, WBRC)
We ask that you implement a policy within your first 100 days to treat all marijuana possession under one ounce similar to a traffic infraction.
“There are tools/resources for a third party to sit with the person incarcerated then make a recommendation to the judge without the DA. This ensures that socioeconomics aren’t a factor.” (Faith in Action forum)
We ask that you end cash bail for people so that no one is incarcerated simply for being poor.
“A person who is indigent deserves the same opportunity to go into a diversion program as one who is not.” (Faith in Action forum)
We ask that you increase the use of pre-charge diversion and alternative court programs in Jefferson County by applying an objective standard to determining eligibility to diversion programs and ensuring equal access to diversion programs regardless of wealth.
“The state should invest funding into DA offices out of the general fund. The DA office should not rely on fines and fees.” You said you would never recommend someone go to jail because they cannot pay their fines. (Faith in Action forum)
We ask that you pledge to voluntarily disclose revenue from all sources, by source, on a yearly basis, and that you advocate in the legislature for the elimination of the current court debt system as it makes communities less safe when people commit crimes to pay their court debt.
We look forward to working with your office to ensure that these changes are made. We remain committed to holding your office accountable to the public it serves. Jefferson County believes in smart justice that is fair to all. We will stand with the community to make sure this vision becomes the region’s reality.
Daniel Schwartz, executive director, Faith in Action Alabama