Restore Respect: My Campaign Pledge
What does that mean?
- If you’re a victim of a crime, respect means having a District Attorney who meets with you, who hears your voice, who takes time to understand your concerns, who explains criminal justice system procedures, and does everything he can to make you whole.
- If you’re a defendant, respect means having a district attorney who understands your case, is prepared for court, who is mindful of your risk level and rehabilitative needs, and who takes steps to ensure that your constitutional rights are protected.
- If you’re a member of law enforcement, respect means having a district attorney who takes time to understand your profession, who dialogues with you regularly, and who is committed to keeping you informed on developments in the law.
- If you're a member of the community, respect means being committed to keeping Trempealeau County safe. It means being a responsible steward of our county's limited resources, it means being in the office during normal business hours, it means promoting transparency and integrity in our system and eliminating "good-old-boys" culture from the criminal justice system.
MY PrOSECUTORIAL PHILOSOPHY:
On a warm, autumn day when I was in high school, my dad and I were raking leaves in my parents' front yard. As we raked, I watched a car pull up slowly, and park in front of the house. The driver, who I didn't recognize, got out of the car and approached my dad. I heard him tell my dad the following:
"You probably don't remember me, but you stopped me for drunk driving 20 years ago, today. I haven't had a drink since that night. That stop got me into recovery, and I've been going to meetings ever since. I wanted to stop by, and thank you for saving my life."
I believe in the value of the American criminal justice system.
The American prosecutor is the gatekeeper for the criminal justice system. For the system to reflect a community's values, the prosecutor must bring those values to bear when doing the job. As Trempealeau County's District Attorney, I pledge to do the following:
- Know Each Defendant:
- Each case is different. I will take the time to understand individual factors such as a person's criminal history, propensity for violence, substance abuse concerns, mental health concerns, and vocational needs. By identifying an individual's risk/need profile, the criminal justice system deters recidivism, and delivers justice--not just convictions.
- Convictions have consequences. I seriously consider the ramifications of a criminal conviction for each defendant. Youthful offenders, defendants with limited or no prior criminal history, and those charged with low-level offenses may be good candidates for dispositions that do not saddle them with a criminal record. Non-criminal dispositions (such as deferred-prosecution-type agreements) must not be issued blindly, however. These agreements must promote accountability, and be closely monitored throughout their terms.
- Listen to Stakeholders:
- The voices of criminal justice system stakeholders matter. I will continue to listen to the concerns of law enforcement, social workers, and members of local government. I will treat these parties with the respect they deserve. When we disagree, I will keep lines of communication open, and work to build consensus when possible.
- I will continue to ride along with members of law enforcement.
- I will continue to participate in social worker field work.
- I will continue to participate in meetings of the Trempealeau County Board of Supervisors.
- I will make myself available to members of my community by visiting communities, and being present in the office on a consistent basis.
- Work effectively with the tools available, and build on success:
- I have been a member of the Trempealeau County Recovery Court team since 2015. I believe in the program's mission, and I have seen scores of participants find rewarding employment, regain custody of their children, and put their lives back on track. No program is perfect, but Recovery Court changes lives for the better.
- I am incredibly proud of the work done by Trempealeau County's probation agents. New strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and trauma-informed interventions supplement time-tested approaches of inpatient/intensive-outpatient substance abuse treatment, urinalysis testing, and facilitating access to jobs and vocational training. I have seen, firsthand, how our probation agents are making positive impacts on our community. I maintain close contact with agents to ensure that I'm placing onto probation those defendants who would most benefit from their services.
- Jail isn't always the answer, but it can be a valuable tool. At a recent recovery court event, I was impressed by the number of people who told me "jail saved my life." For these people, jail was a necessary first step on their road to recovery. It helped them to break contact with negative associates, and allowed them a period of "clean time" (inmates are monitored by jail personnel, and provided medical treatment when appropriate). Not everyone who comes through the criminal justice system needs to be confined, but there are sound reasons to utilize the jail. Confinement can impress upon a defendant the serious nature of his or her offense, it can serve as a sanction for a violation while on probation, and it can hold defendants who cannot be relied upon to make court appearances. Prison is appropriate for dangerous offenders, and those whose treatment needs cannot be met in the community.
- Drug offenses often have victims:
- As a prosecutor, I have seen the horrific toll that methamphetamine and opiates have taken on Trempealeau County. Overdose deaths. Burglaries. Automobile crashes. Drug-fueled violence.
- All too frequently, the people addicted to methamphetamine or heroin have children in their care. As the attorney who handles one-hundred-percent of the county's Child Protective Services (CPS) cases, I have seen the tremendous cost these children pay on account of their parent's addiction. As district attorney, I will work tirelessly to ensure that the children of Trempealeau County are protected.
- Parents of children abused or neglected due to substance abuse need to be held accountable, and incentivized to address their substance abuse needs. Treatment may come in the form of voluntary assistance through the Department of Human Services. Alternatively, for those defendants in the criminal system, treatment and accountability may come in the form of community supervision (probation).
In my tenure as Trempealeau County’s Assistant District Attorney, I have witnessed defendants transform their lives as a direct result of their contact with the criminal justice system. The system can work, if we have officials who are willing to put in the effort.