LIST OF ISSUES

I AIM TO IMPROVE OUR SYSTEM AND PROMOTE STABLE AND VIBRANT COMMUNITIES IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS:

INCARCERATION AS A LAST RESORT

  • We should stop incarcerating people who are not a threat to the physical safety of others. Instead, we should respond to less serious crimes in ways that are more effective in addressing the root causes of criminal behavior, moving the individual towards a more productive future.  This approach is not only humane, it is good for society as a whole, is less expensive than incarceration, and will help reduce crime in the long run. 

  • Although incarceration has become normalized in our system of justice, everyone at the State Attorney’s Office should appreciate what an extreme punishment incarceration really is and only use it when absolutely necessary.  I will reorient the office’s goals away from extreme sentences and towards resolutions that promote public safety and the well-being of our community.                                                         

OUR COMMUNITY LOSES MORE THAN 1500 PEOPLE EVERY YEAR TO MASS INCARCERATION

  • Orange and Osceola counties need a State Attorney who will take bold action to address and reduce mass incarceration.  Florida is a leader in mass incarceration, and Orange and Osceola counties have historically been no exception.                                                                                                                                            

  • Imprisoning a person in a cage is an extreme punishment, but it has become the default outcome in our system for too wide a range of individuals and offenses. We need to think creatively about what accountability can look like and how we can more productively respond to criminal behavior.                            

  • Data from the Florida Department of Corrections shows that the current State Attorney has made positive strides to scale back incarceration, reducing the number of people sent to prison by 14% and the overall amount of prison time imposed by 22%, as compared to her predecessor.  While this is a step in the right direction, we have more to do.                                                                                                                    

  • Mass incarceration is still a problem in Orange and Osceola counties:

  • Over the past two years (April 2018 through March 2020), the 9th Circuit State Attorney’s Office sent nearly 3000 people to prison.  These individuals were sentenced to serve almost 15,000 years plus 72 life sentences.                                                                                                                                                                              

  • More than half of those people – 1653 – were sentenced for a primary offense that did not involve physical violence or cause death or serious injury to another.                                                                                    

  • These individuals, who were convicted of drug, property, and traffic offenses with no injuries, were sentenced to over 5700 years of prison time plus two life sentences.                                                                 

  • Of this group, 549 people convicted of drug-related offenses accounted for over 2300 years of prison time plus one life sentence.

 

  • Prison data also shows tremendous racial disparities in who our system decides to lock up. 

 

  • While the population of Orange and Osceola counties is only 19.3 percent Black,

    • 45% of the individuals sentenced to prison time were Black.

    • 57% of those who received life sentences were Black.

  

  • We will attack mass incarceration through targeted reforms:

    • I am the only candidate for the job prepared to make the changes necessary to tackle our over-reliance on incarceration while meaningfully promoting safety.

 

  • We need to break our over-reliance on unnecessary incarceration and forge a new path forward, one that will increase community well-being and public safety. 

 

  • Addressing mass incarceration requires fundamental change and cannot be solved simply by expanding diversion opportunities or changing our approach to a small subset of sentences.  The problem is much more profound than that and attacking it requires a completely new outlook on the criminal justice system. 

 

  • Going forward, my State Attorney’s Office would follow these guidelines:

 

  • We will seek incarceration only when it is absolutely necessary to protect the physical safety of others or when all other interventions have failed.  We will generally not request prison sentences for drug and other victimless offenses, unless unusual and extreme circumstances are present. 

  • Minimum mandatory penalties, recidivist sentencing enhancements, and other extreme mandatory punishments often cause disproportionate punishment and substantially contribute to mass incarceration., We will rarely rely on these extreme punishments, harnessing them only when necessary to protect the physical safety of others. 

  • We will consider age in criminal sentencing.  We will avoid direct filing juveniles into adult court whenever possible and, even where it is necessary, seek sentences focused on rehabilitation.  We will also make efforts to substantially limit sentences that result in the incarceration of the elderly. 

  • We will end excessive sentencing. Increasingly lengthy sentences caused much of the incarceration boom in the 90s and beyond. While incarceration is sometimes necessary, I will reduce the amount of time we seek to a level that protects public safety but does not imprison people for decades after they cease to pose any threat to the community.

BAIL REFORM 

  • Money bail is used throughout the 9th circuit, even though it punishes poverty and does nothing to protect public safety and is unnecessary to ensure court appearance. We will end it.  We will work to bring as many people home - people who are presumed innocent -- as can be safely returned to the community. 

  • Our current money bail system allows prosecutors and judges to avoid addressing the real question: can this person be released consistent with public safety? When they seek or set a high bond, they do not address that question.  All they have ensured is that the rich get out and the poor stay in. 

  • For every person that can be safely released, we will utilize non-monetary release.  For those who cannot be released because they pose a serious threat to public safety, we will ask for pretrial detention, according to procedures set forth in Florida law.  No one will be incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to pay money bail.  By taking this approach, we will eliminate penalties for poverty and honestly address the impact of our choices about pretrial release. 

 HELPING VICTIMS

  • We should do more for victims than hope the satisfaction of a long and costly sentence will bring them closure.

  • Victims need real help, which should include access to services to help them address the trauma they have experienced and to help them move forward and heal. 

  • All victims need this, not just those whose cases we decide to prosecute: every year, there are hundreds of unsolved crimes in our community and, under our current system, these victims never receive any help from the State Attorney’s Office. We will partner with local victim’s advocacy groups to offer services to victims of crime when the crimes occur, regardless of whether an arrest is made.       

  • These services will be geared towards healing the harm caused, not ensuring that people cooperate with a prosecution. 

DIVERSION

  • By offering evidence-based interventions and reducing the collateral consequences that flow from a conviction, diversion programs are extremely effective in reducing reoffending and promoting public safety.  They are also substantially less expensive than probation and incarceration and therefore preserve precious tax dollars.                                                                                                                                       

  • We need to dramatically expand the scope of our diversion programs, allowing a greater number of individuals to participate.  We will widen eligibility criteria to include all those who can safely enroll and who would benefit from diversion programming.

PROBATION REFORM

  • ​This nation’s probation system was first devised as an alternative to incarceration that permitted convicted individuals to remain in their communities while participating in rehabilitative interventions. Today, however, probation is more about surveillance than it is about rehabilitation— it is not an alternative to confinement but is instead just incarceration on an installment plan.  People stay on probation for far longer than is necessary, leading some to return to prison for minor, noncriminal conduct.                                                                                                                                                            

  • My office, therefore, will take a new approach to probation, focusing on interventions and practices that evidence and research demonstrate lead to improved outcomes for probationers and reduced crime in the community.  These changes include:

    • reducing the number and types of cases where probation is sought

    • shortening the length of probation terms

    • limiting the number of requirements so that probation terms are focused on a single goal designed to promote rehabilitation and community safety

    • offering early termination when the goal of probation is achieved

    • reducing the amount of incarceration that flows from probation violations, especially technical violations of probation.

TREATING KIDS LIKE KIDS

  • We will keep children in the juvenile court system whenever possible. We will substantially limit the direct filing of children into the adult criminal justice system, reserving this harsh option for only the most serious and violent cases, such as murders or serious sexual assaults, where public safety simply requires it.                                                                                                                                                                            

  • In the rare case that a child is charged as an adult, our office will always respect and recognize their immaturity and specific needs and will pursue resolutions that favor rehabilitation over punishment.              

  • As State Attorney, I will also advocate at the legislature for allowing juvenile courts to retain jurisdiction over the highest-risk committed children until they reach age 25. Right now, even the most serious cases and the highest risk individuals must be released from juvenile court jurisdiction when they turn 19 or 21.  If jurisdiction extended into early adulthood, we address even those children who commit the most serious offenses in the juvenile justice system.  

ENSURING POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY

           A trusting relationship between the police and the community is necessary to advance public safety. The            deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks have highlighted issues of racism, violence, and misconduct            in police departments across the nation. People have taken to the streets to demand, among other                        changes, accountability for officers who commit criminal acts. While some may see this movement as                  anti-police, I understand that ensuring wrongdoing has consequences is not only the right thing to do,                but will also enhance the legitimacy of the police officers who are doing their jobs honorably.

           As State Attorney, I will work with police officers every day to investigate, charge, and prosecute cases.                 However, I will also remove any incentive the police have to engage in serious misconduct by holding                 those who do so accountable.

            Investigating and prosecuting police officers and other officials accused of crimes:

                 ● I will create a special investigations unit that is focused on criminal accusations against police                                officers and other public officials that, like the conviction integrity unit, is walled off from the rest                          of the office, and is tasked with investigating and prosecuting officer-involved cases.

                 ● I will recruit attorneys who have extensive experience handling criminal and civil cases involving                          law enforcement abuse and civil rights violations. Their background must demonstrate that they                          are willing to take on law enforcement when appropriate and try challenging cases.

          Collecting information about misconduct:

                 ● I will continue to collect information about acts of misconduct committed by our police officers. By                      doing so, our prosecutors will ensure that we are fully aware of the backgrounds of the officers who                      testify in our cases and have disclosed everything to the defense that may potentially be relevant to                      the current prosecution.

                 ● We will also place officers who commit serious misconduct, including planting evidence, coercing                         witnesses, or falsifying statements, on a “do-not-call” list. The decision to enter a person onto this                         list is a serious one and it is obviously fact-bound. Our office, however, will presumptively not rely                         on testimony from an officer who:

                             1. has made racist, xenophobic, or sexist comments with witnesses or on social media;

                             2. has engaged in criminal conduct involving deceit or untruthfulness;

                             3. is the subject of an on-going criminal investigation;

                             4. has improperly manipulated or planted evidence;

                             5. has a history of repeatedly failing to activate a body camera in accordance with department                                   policy, particularly in cases where a person has been injured or alleged their rights were                                           violated;

                             6. has intentionally engaged in untruthfulness or deception regarding facts in a report,                                                 statement, or testimony at a hearing or other official proceeding or investigation;

                             7. has intentionally engaged in untruthfulness concerning on-duty conduct of the officer or                                         others.

                ● Our office will have a clear, publicly available procedure it must follow before placing any officer                         on the exclusionary list. This procedure will give officers an opportunity to refute the allegations,                           offer evidence of good conduct, and otherwise attempt to show that, despite evidence of                                         misconduct, they should not be barred from testifying.

                  My ultimate goal is to ensure that all the good police officers on the street, who are doing their jobs                      with honesty and dedication, have the trust of our community. The State Attorney’s Office needs                            their trust as well. By showing everyone in Orange and Osceola counties that I will not tolerate                              misconduct, that I will never sweep it under the rug, I will help ensure that the public trusts and                            respects the police but does not fear them.

PAID BY MONIQUE WORRELL, DEMOCRAT FOR ORANGE- OSCEOLA STATE ATTORNEY

© 2020 by Monique Worrell 

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