DISTRICT ATTORNEY DIANA BECTON WILL FIGHT FOR YOU!
My #1 priority as District Attorney is to keep our community safe. I am working hard to improve the transparency of the office and accountability to our community. I am also committed to improving our services for victims of crime. But there is so much more we can and should do to pursue justice in Contra Costa County. Together, we can break the cycle of crime in our communities by seeking better outcomes for youth, diverting offenders to mental health treatment and services, supporting second chances for those who have served their time, and adopting innovative new approaches and initiatives that require accountability but reduce our reliance on prison time to repair harms to crime victims and to our community.
Want to know more about my agenda? Here are the issues that have risen to the top during my first eight months as your District Attorney:
Support for Victims of Crime
Crime victims have differing needs; however the traditional practice from the DA’s office has been a one-size-fits-all approach. In my years on the bench and in the community, I know that we can do more. As your District Attorney, I will continue to prioritize the needs of all crime victims, including those who have lost a family member to violence, by expanding victim/witness service programs and improving communication between prosecutors and our victims and their families. Additionally, some victims need more than what the DA’s office provides to address trauma. For instance, some women suffering from domestic violence may need support before even reporting a crime, which the DA’s office does not provide. Given the unique needs of our crime victims, I will work to create Trauma Recovery Centers (TRCs ) in our community. TRCs are an invaluable resource for crime victims to receive support before, during, and after criminal proceedings.
Better Outcomes for Youth
We deserve an America where children do not fear for their lives each day they leave for school. Limiting access to guns is the most direct way to reduce gun violence. I will therefore support sensible gun control, gun buy-back programs, and a ban on assault-style weapons. I am also a proud participant of programs such as Ceasefire, which shows the strength of community engagement to reduce gun-violence.
We must also act proactively to destroy the school-to-prison pipeline that can ensnare our youth and rob them of their futures. Truancy initiatives are one of the programs I support to keep our youth in school.
Science has proven that children simply do not have the cognitive ability to weigh consequences and outcomes in the same manner as adults. In the majority of cases, I believe that youth offenders should not enter the adult system. However, there are situations where youth who are nearly adults, who may have a violent history and/or committed a serious or violent offense, are better suited for the adult criminal justice system. In every case involving our youth, I will consider the facts and any mitigating circumstances in an effort to keep youth out of the adult system, while balancing public safety. Irrespective of the crime, no child will ever receive a life sentence (or equivalent) without the possibility of parole.
Treatment & Services, Not Jail
MENTAL ILLNESS, DRUG ADDICTION, & HOMELESSNESS
Our criminal justice system has become overburdened with people suffering from mental illness, drug addiction, homelessness. Without those underlying conditions, most of these individuals would not be swept up in the system. They need treatment and services - not incarceration. In the long term, we can reduce crime, save tax dollars, and lessen the burden on our courts by diverting these individuals to treatment and services with a focus on addressing the underlying conditions and reducing the criminal behavior that often results from those conditions.
For these individuals, especially those who have committed low-level, non-violent offenses, public safety may be better served through prevention and treatment programs.
Reducing Recidivism: Second Chances
I support reentry and expungement practices that provide individuals a true second chance at getting it right. This is also an opportunity for the community to help break the cycle of crime. This “second chance” also involves ensuring that all prosecutors understand their duty to consider the unintended immigration-related consequences of their daily decisions. While we must maintain a relentless focus on serious and violent criminals, we must do a better job initiating emerging models that promote fairness and safety for all. We cannot continue with the status quo; we must look for ways to improve upon past practices that ensure proportional consequences, efficient government spending, and fair treatment of the accused. If we want to reduce crime in our community and overcrowding in our prisons, second chance programs are a good start.
A New Approach to Low-Level Crimes
Too many people enter the justice system as a result of non-violent, low-level crimes. By focusing on how we address these crimes, we can create a fairer system that holds people accountable and ensures the best outcomes for everyone in our community.
We do have opportunities now to divert non-violent offenders from jail time to programs that hold them accountable while keeping them in the community. But we can and should do more. Diversion programs might include community service, parenting classes, and other programs that can help address underlying social or health conditions that disproportionately lead to criminal behavior.
No person should be forced to remain in pre-trial custody for the simple fact that he or she cannot afford bail. By solely using money or cash bail we have created a two-tiered system of justice; one for the rich, and another for people who remain in jail before convicted because they are too poor to post bail. Statistically, 68% of people in our jails are awaiting trial. An individual should only remain in custody where they are a danger to the community or if they are a flight risk. If it is determined that the accused should remain in custody, then bail should be set at an amount that the accused has the capability to pay. Based on these notions of fairness, I support bail reform which includes limiting the use of money bail for non-violent, low-level misdemeanors and enhancing pretrial services to support community supervision for certain individuals.
Restorative justice is a theory of justice that seeks to repair the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is an inclusive process for all those impacted by a crime, including the defendant, the victim, family members, and the community. Restorative justice requires that the harm be identified, and that steps be taken to repair the harm. When used effectively, restorative justice can transform and heal participants in a way that punitive justice cannot.
Community Relationships & Trust
As your District Attorney, I am committed to transforming the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and restore public trust. Since September, I have been working hard to increase transparency, build community partnerships, and restore the morale of our hard-working prosecutors and staff in the in the office. I am committed to leading the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office into a new era of transparency and public trust.
I believe the agencies and leaders that are part of our criminal justice system must be guided by fairness, integrity and transparency. Transparency leads to trustworthiness, which is critical where decisions are made impacting the community, victims, and those charged with crimes.
I believe that the District Attorney, as an elected official, must be held accountable to the very community she is chosen to serve. This includes meaningful community engagement where decisions and practices are transparent. I have already begun meeting with community groups to hear their concerns, and if elected to a full term, I will continue those conversations. This engagement must include all of our communities, including those that are marginalized and underserved. As District Attorney, I will enforce the law and protect all residents of Contra Costa County.
As a former judge and current District Attorney for Contra Costa County, I am proud to have served the people of Contra Costa County for over three decades. As a judge for 22 years, my job was to ensure that all participants in a criminal case – victims, defendants and witnesses – receive fair and just treatment, while also protecting the interests of public safety. I am doing the same as your District Attorney.
I bring a much broader approach to criminal justice than Contra Costa County has seen in the past. While serving victims will remain my top priority, there is so much more we can do to protect our community.
Because implicit bias can impact all of us, I support training to help our prosecutors and law enforcement leaders better understand and counteract implicit bias. I also support legislative and law enforcement efforts to increase de-escalation training for officers.
Recently, there have been new innovations in the criminal justice system and emerging best practices for how prosecutors can ensure fairness for the accused while still protecting public safety. We have come to understand that we cannot simply incarcerate individuals without addressing the drivers of crime. Children in our criminal justice system require nuanced treatment given science about the adolescent brain. Prison spending is costly and those funds could be better spent locally to address crime and provide prevention and treatment. We must implement innovative initiatives – that rely on tools beyond incarceration – to keep our community safe.
In this new era, we have a new opportunity, but it requires new leadership.
As your District Attorney, I will enact and enforce transparent policies that focus on the safety of our communities, address the needs of our victims, and give our returning citizens a meaningful opportunity to become productive members of society.
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Interviews District Attorney Diana Becton
District Attorney Diana Becton speaks to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce about her work, her qualifications, and her vision for making the criminal justice system fair for everyone in Contra Costa County.