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ON THE ISSUES

Maintain & Expand Access to Treatment Courts

One of my highest priorities is to maintain current access to treatment courts. In the 15th District Court, we have three specialty treatment courts: sobriety, veterans, and mental health. The enrollment number in these courts has reduced substantially and the staff available to provide support to these courts are minimal. We know that they work, and, in part because of their success, we now have specialty courts expanding to the circuit court level. If we know that treatment courts work, we need to maintain a partnership with the circuit court that allows for maximal enrollment in both treatment courts.

 

Likewise, I want to expand eligibility for, and increase the number of treatment courts available. While our courts have offered increased eviction diversion opportunities to combat housing affordability, we know that many marginalized community members reside in subsidized housing and are frequently targeted for tenancy termination. I believe that a housing treatment court that includes judicial oversight will do more to ensure compliance with agreements by both parties. Our courts must work with community partners to stabilize housing and address ongoing challenges. 

 

I also want to formalize a domestic violence specialty court. Domestic violence continues to harm and traumatize families in our communities. Formalizing partnerships allow the court and community organizations to pursue funding that increase and improve support services across the community. Additional court oversight helps ensure real change with the goal of protecting and stabilizing families for the long term.

 

Prioritize Safety and Victim Advocacy

I've spent well over 10 years of my career helping crime victims address a number of collateral consequences that fall from victimization. Courts must prioritize victim safety and stabilization. Where there is a gap in services, judges can work to revitalize or establish relationships with community partners. While judges must enforce the law fairly and without bias, having established partnerships allows for generalized feedback and improvement of court services. I would strive to be a judge that is balanced, fair, and appropriately responsive. The justice system is limited, as it is often impossible for victims to be made whole in many circumstances. Nonetheless, courts must strive to protect the community, treat victims with dignity, issue necessary protective orders, order meaningful restitution, ensure that justice is timely pursued, and allow their voices to be heard during the process. Courts can also make sure victims are aware of funding available to recompense the financial, physical, and emotional trauma caused by the crime, and receive necessary support in navigating that process. 

Continue Criminal Justice Reform

My ultimate goal is for Ann Arbor to be a model for other communities who value justice reform and fundamental fairness. This means advocating for laws and services that prioritize diversion and addressing underlying issues that bring repeat offenders before the courts. This means electing leadership that can see the humanity in the people who come before it. This means challenging preconceived notions and confronting data that indicate bias in our structures. This does not necessarily mean a hands-off approach. While there must be more economic and educational opportunities and resources available in struggling communities, the justice system still plays a necessary role. However, instead of focusing on punishment, courts must be partners in both ensuring safety and addressing underlying needs of offenders. In other words, where courts were previously tools for inflicting harm on marginalized communities, with a renewed focus on treatment court services, courts can become trusted partners in rebuilding communities – a resource for meaningful change.

 

Alternatives to Incarceration

We need to do better at promoting alternatives to incarceration, including through minimizing the use of cash bail. While the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office has a policy against advocating for cash bail, magistrates and judges can still order it. Moreover, even bond requirements can have substantial negative collateral consequences for families living paycheck to paycheck. Judicial officers must be cognizant and prioritize alternatives such as tethers, house arrest, and weapons restrictions. The court must also have strong connections with community organizations and leaders. Safety matters. While alternatives must be considered, where jail is necessary to guarantee safety, we must make sure that defendants are taking advantage of services that address underlying issues. We must also ensure that systemic responses are responsive to community values.

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