What do you know about your district attorney?
The Denver Justice Project sees this role as the most influential in the criminal justice system. The DA has power, influence and discretion that historically has gone unmonitored, unchecked and unrecognized by the general public. Power like – will crimes be charged as misdemeanors, felonies, or even prosecuted at all? And this includes against law enforcement. DAs decide who is eligible for victim’s assistance, how far they want to take charges, who will be targeted for the death penalty, and so much more. These monumental decisions alter the course of people’s lives, impacting family members, loved ones and community. Yet these important DA elections often go unwatched, and sometimes even uncontested. The Denver DA is the highest paid state elected official. Current Denver DA Mitchell Morrissey has been in office for 12 years. He created a third term for the position after running unopposed. This office states that it acts on behalf of the people, but the public has been given little to no understanding – about its true dynamics. Unlike other elected officials, the DA’s office has rarely been responsive, accessible, or accountable to its constituency.
The Denver Justice Project has developed a community teach-in curriculum that we are facilitating across the Denver metro area. This curriculum includes our 10-point voter education tool that details these 10 focuses:
- Mass incarceration
- Fighting cultural patterns and practices of violence in law enforcement
- Decriminalizing public health issues
- Transparency and openness to community input
- Conviction reviews
- Bail reform
- Respecting the right to protest
- Juvenile justice
- What organizational change needs to take place in your DA’s office and does the office reflect the community?
The curriculum is being used as a tool for understanding the dynamics and complexities of the Denver DA’s office and how it can better serve the public in the future. This is in preparation for the upcoming district attorney primaries on June 28, 2016 and the election at large in November, 2016. But more importantly, the training should be used as a critical assessment for why we as community need to pay attention to the District Attorney’s race in Denver, across Colorado and even across the country.
Our next community teach in will be Wednesday, May 25th at Park Hill Congregational Church. 2600 Leyden St, Denver, CO 80207 6:00pm to 8:00pm.
Photo credit: Paul Sableman, Creative Commons, Flickr.