At the 2019 VA Women’s Summit on Friday evening, we got to hear from several leading Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates, as well as from PW County Democratic Committee Executive Director David Pala on why these races matter (“they’re the top prosecutors in every locality or combination of localities across our state and what they do have a huge impact on our communities and our everyday lives”). See below the video for a few more highlights. Now let’s help elect all of these folks in November!
- Prince William County Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney nominee Amy Ashworth said: “We have not had a new prosecutor in Prince William County for 50 years. Now wait, Mr. Ebert did a lot of good things, and I’m gonna build on that and make them better as the first woman elected to this office in Prince William County…I was in the Special Victims Unit…I look forward to reforming criminal justice here in Prince William County.”
- Fairfax County Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney nominee Steve Descano: “I will tell you that this job is not only a prosecutor’s job this job is a leadership job and an advocates job we need a leader in this role who is going to lead both in and outside the courtroom and an advocate he’s gonna advocate not for some of us but for all of us and not only do that but do that with our values including equity…We need to recognize that we’re going to look at everything with an equitable lens…Do you want a criminal justice system that treats everybody fairly, that goes for justice and goes through everything with a lens of equity. I thought you might…that’s what you’re going to get on January 1.
- Loudoun County Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney nominee Buta Biberaj: “We talked about the school-to-prison pipeline and this is what we want to do, is we want to keep make sure the kids are first and kids are protected – even if they’re being protected by their own bad decisions. We have to make sure that we are treating them as they are, which is children…How we’re going to be able to do that by making sure that our school system understands that the school discipline stays in the school we’re not tracking them through the court system we need to make our juvenile detention centers obsolete…It is each and every one of our responsibilities to make sure that we are invested in the criminal justice system, we’re invested in our education system, and we invest in the community so that we can be mentors for our kids rather than just being the punishers. Because it’s easy to punish and lock people up, you know what because all we do is throwing people away. We’re not throwing people away anymore; we’re definitely not going to do it in Loudoun County, we’re not doing it in Fairfax, we’re not doing it in Prince William… Arlington…Richmond…Albemarle.”
- Arlington County/Falls Church Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney nominee Parisa Dehgani-Tafti: “We can prevent wrongful convictions by enacting policies that ensure that we are using only the best science…giving discovery…We talk a lot about reform and safety and justice, and in the last 40 years we’ve talked about safety and justice as if they’re two separate things that don’t go together and are actually the opposite of each other. But the Central Park Five case, the Norfolk Four case, all of the wrongful conviction cases where somebody innocent went to prison and the real perpetrator was left out in the community to commit more crimes and to prey on more people, those cases show… that safety and justice are interconnected and interrelated, because in those cases nobody got safety and nobody got justice. I’ve been a public defender and I’ve been the legal director of an organization that gets innocent people out of prison. Learning the lessons of wrongful convictions can actually help bring justice and safety to each of our communities so that they’re not opposing values, but are actually the values that we live every day together.”
- Albemarle County Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney nominee Jim Hingeley: “President Obama said that local prosecutors have more power to affect criminal justice reform than the President of the United States. That’s why we’re here. Al of these candidates are going to bring criminal justice reform to their communities. David told you what criminal justice reform means. Now, if we are all successful in being elected in November, let me tell you there’s a lot of places in Virginia that do not have progressive prosecutors and need criminal justice reform. So the job is just starting in November in some communities. But there’s a place where we can extend the criminal justice reform to those other communities and that place is the legislature. And that’s why it’s so important…that the Democrats regain control of the State Senate and the House of Delegates. And I know that the Democrats, if they take control of the General Assembly, will be partners with progressive prosecutors like us to bring criminal justice reform all across Virginia.”
- Henrico County Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney nominee Shannon Taylor: “I believe in a Commonwealth Attorney’s Office that represents the area where you live. I believe that so much, in 2011 when I beat Eric Cantor’s handpicked person to run, Bill Janis, and I immediately let go one-third of the office, that conservative rag in Richmond thought that I lost my mind. They thought I lost my mind so much that they did not even endorse me in 2015 when Henrico County was a safer place in 2015 than it was in 2011. But that ability to clean the palate of the Commonwealth Attorney’s office allowed me to have members of the LGBT community, Asian-Americans, Middle-Eastern Americans, veterans, African Americans. I had two African-American people in management; there had never been that before. And more women than men as attorneys in the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in Henrico County. I believe in a Commonwealth’s Attorney who is out there in the community and not sitting behind the desk. Which is why I’m out there at our places of worship, at the synagogues, at the mosques, at the church, engaging with the community to understand what the Commonwealth Attorney does to make the place safe. I’m in the schools to tell the kids about the perils of social media and cyber bullying and making sure that these kids are in a safe environment. And I also believe that there are second chances for individuals. I believe in the sense that criminal behavior, you focus on the behavior. Which is why it is so important that we have those resources out there, like Jim said, from the General Assembly, to ensure that when people are faced with that proverbial fork in the road, they have the opportunity to make a good decision over a bad decision. Because the best statistic that you can have in your community is zero recidivism. And that’s what we have brought to Henrico County. And I look forward to working with all of these fine men and women up here as we go in 2019.”