What are specific ways you have helped people of color and/or the immigrant community?
I have made mandatory for my office training on cultural competency and implicit bias, and brought in speakers to address racial history in our nation, like Jeff Robinson of the ACLU, who gave a 3-hour talk to my office about history lessons we were never taught.
I also have formed an African-American Advisory Council which meets quarterly to discuss issues of justice and community engagement with young people caught up in the court system. The members of this Council represent sectors of education, government, clergy, social services, and formerly incarcerated.
We know that our drug control policies have relied too heavily on the criminal justice system, with racially disproportionate impacts. As prosecutor, I have been at the forefront of criminal justice reform, developing a program for the diversion of drug offenders that has become a national model: Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), our public health approach to drug addiction that replaces criminal justice for possession of small amounts of narcotics. Since 2007, the percentage of inmates in Washington State prisons serving sentences only for drug crimes has steadily, and rapidly, declined. We are making progress, but there is much work still to do.
I have also initiated and supported clemency applications for 17 men and women, mostly African-Americans, who were given life sentences, most under our state’s three-strikes law. I have opposed this law’s “one size fits all” approach and have pushed the legislature and prosecutors to reform it. Meanwhile, we have an active clemency and second-look practice in my office and invite cases to review for potential support.
In our office, we have adopted standards to consider potential immigration consequences of criminal convictions and are working with immigration attorneys to make sure that we do not unwittingly make a person more vulnerable to potential deportation by ICE. I have publicly championed the importance of prosecuting attorneys looking at immigration consequences when making filing and disposition decisions. In an early case under the current federal administration where a young DACA recipient faced the realistic prospect of being stripped of DACA protections and removed from the country after a high blood alcohol content DUI, I not only ensured she received an immigration-safe disposition, but spoke about the importance of doing so in national press: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/us/prosecutors-dilemma-will-conviction-lead-to-life-sentence-of-deportation.html.
What is the biggest legislative priority for communities of color and the immigrant community in the next few years? Do you think there are legislative concerns that are unique to these communities?
Two of the most critical issues are criminal justice reform and the drug epidemic. Indeed, these two issues are closely related and they have disproportionately interacted with underrepresented and marginalized communities. I was an early proponent for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program and I believe it is necessary to address the issue as a public health one, rather than a criminal issue. Criminal justice reform is no less critical an issue for the constituents of King County and my office. In my role as Prosecuting Attorney, I have been an advocate for reforming our criminal justice system so that it better serves our community. At the legislature this year, I will be advocating for state investment in community-based non-profit groups who will design and implement custom reentry plans for returning citizens.
What are specific ways that the office you seek would affect communities of color and the immigrant community, if you are elected?
Our office has led the nation in criminal justice reforms that tackle the roots of racial disproportionality. By focusing on rehabilitation and connecting people to services, we help people address problems in their lives through proactive, community-supported programs. We’ve significantly reduced juvenile incarceration by diverting youth to community-led accountability programs to keep kids in school. I also co-chair the Statewide Reentry Council, helping people build productive lives after serving their sentence.
Throughout my career serving the people of King County, I’ve led the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to work in partnership with all stakeholders to build sustainable, community-based programs that address our society’s ills in a holistic and productive way. The criminal justice system alone cannot address the issues we face, only a community working together can.