Theo Stamos' Response:

1. We believe making a specific % commitment to decarceration is also a pledge to constituents that you are willing to be held accountable for doing your part to end mass incarceration. Recently, John Cruezot of Texas set a goal of decarcerating Dallas County by 15-20% in his first term. His plan to do that will be available within the first 90 days of taking office. Will you commit to a specific % reduction in the incarcerated population of Arlington County during the term of office for which you are now seeking election? If so, please indicate what % you think is achievable and why. 

2. Will you create and release a written plan detailing how you plan to reduce the jail population in Arlington County within the first 100 days of the term for which you are seeking election?

Since becoming Commonwealth’s Attorney, I have adopted several policies with the goal of reducing the rate of incarceration in Arlington County. Most notably, this has included the creation of our county’s first Drug Court program. With respect to first-offense marijuana possession charges, my office waives jail time. Additionally, I am quite confident that no one is serving a sentence in our detention facility on an original charge of simple possession of marijuana. Under my stewardship as CA, the jail population at the Arlington County Detention Facility is the lowest it’s been in more than five years. That is not serendipitous; it is because of sentencing recommendations made daily by prosecutors in my office. I will always look to diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration and we do so on a regular basis. I urge our leaders both at the County level and in Richmond to provide us more resources to allow us to expand programs such as our Bond Diversion program that meaningfully reduce incarceration rates.

I do not think, consistent with my oath of office, I can responsibly promise to reduce the population of the jail by a certain number. As you know, when and whether someone is incarcerated is a process that starts with somebody committing a crime, their being arrested, our reviewing the case and carrying forward with the prosecution. It’s ultimately a judicial determination, not that of the prosecutor, that dictates what sentence is imposed. I believe Mr. Cruezot’s plan is commendable and I support his goals. But he proposes to achieve his goals by deciding which laws to enforce and which laws not to enforce.

While I believe prosecutors can take steps to ameliorate unnecessary burdens imposed by laws, such as diversion programs and alternative sentencing options, I think it is a violation of one’s oath of office to refuse to enforce constitutional laws that were duly enacted. While I understand that the ACLU has laudable goals in promoting these positions, it is surprising that you would support the notion that an individual officer holder could negate duly enacted laws simply as a matter of preference.

That is the first step toward turning away from the rule of law. The danger of approving of this approach to the enforcement of laws is most recently evidenced by the declaration by substantial number of sheriffs out west refusing to enforce a newly enacted gun law. As a matter of principle, both plans are inconsistent with democratic self-government.

3. Do you commit to collect and share publicly data from the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office on a quarterly basis, including, at minimum, data that can be sorted demographically on  1) cases dismissed, nolle prossed or declined; 2) charges brought; 3)  bail recommendations made and accepted; 4) plea offers and agreements; 5) convictions and not guilty verdicts; 6) prosecutor demands for jury trial; and 7) sentencing recommendations?

As you are aware, my office recently released to the ACLU of Virginia more than 2,000 pages of data. In doing so, your colleague, Mr. Mateo Gasparotto in an email to me dated April 2, 2019 said: “[T]hank you and your staff for your quick response and transparency.”

If re-elected I will work toward a program of regular data releases that are consistent with my duty to protect crime victims and witnesses and that also shield the disclosure of prosecution and investigative files pursuant to VFOIA.

4. Will you commit that your office will adopt and publish a policy of non-cooperation with ICE?

My office does not contact ICE regarding defendants as a routine matter. In fact, we commonly work with undocumented victims and witnesses whose status is never addressed and who are never referred to ICE. However, this community has its share of undocumented defendants who have committed horrific crimes, including rape, child abuse, spousal abuse and other violent felonies. When this occurs and ICE places a detainer upon them while they are in the Arlington County Detention Facility, it is the Sheriff’s Office that will notify ICE when an individual with a detainer has completed a sentence or is being transferred to the Department of Corrections.


Parisa Tafti's Response:

1. We believe making a specific % commitment to decarceration is also a pledge to constituents that you are willing to be held accountable for doing your part to end mass incarceration. Recently, John Cruezot of Texas set a goal of decarcerating Dallas County by 15-20% in his first term. His plan to do that will be available within the first 90 days of taking office. Will you commit to a specific % reduction in the incarcerated population of Arlington County during the term of office for which you are now seeking election? If so, please indicate what % you think is achievable and why.

Yes, at least 15%

Since 2015, there has been a 17% increase in the daily average population of our jail.  Our jail population is higher per capita than neighboring counties and is higher per capita than it was in the 1980s.  All this despite a steadily decreasing crime rate across Northern Virginia. 

Assuming the crime rate remains the same, I will commit to decarcerating my jurisdiction by at least 15% over the course of my first term.   I will do this by: expanding bail reform efforts; reducing unnecessary never-ending felony probation supervision and instead follow the probation supervision guidelines recommended in the 21 Principles; offering fair misdemeanor outcomes to defendants who are deserving of leniency; developing restorative justice programs that don’t rely on a traditional, punitive court process; and by creating and expanding diversion programs to broaden participation and enhance effectiveness.

2. Will you create and release a written plan detailing how you plan to reduce the jail population in Arlington County within the first 100 days of the term for which you are seeking election?

Yes.

My written plan on reducing the jail population will be part of a much larger policy memo.  A key part of my agenda upon taking office is to engage outside experts to conduct an internal review and make recommendations on best practices.  Following the result of that internal study, I plan to draft and publish a detailed policy memo, outlining both the general philosophy of the office as well as specific practices with respect to victim services, charging decisions, cash bail, discovery, pre-trial detention, plea negotiations and agreements, diversion, mental health and substance abuse programs, restorative justice, juveniles, and immigration consequences.  One of the biggest challenges of criminal justice reform is that too many prosecutor’s offices, including that of the Commonwealth’s Attorney here in Arlington and Falls Church, operate as black boxes with no coherent philosophy – at least none that is readily apparent to the community.  While the absence of a written policy memo available to the public may afford individual prosecutors a great deal of flexibility in charging and sentencing decisions, it does little to inspire public trust and confidence.   When pressed on their office priorities, prosecutors will often invoke public safety or victims’ rights as justification without ever explaining how, for just example, prosecuting simple marijuana possession cases result in public safety, or, for another example, how opposing voting rights for returning citizens helps victims heal.  A detailed policy memo, covering, among other things, how to reduce our jail population, represents a commitment not just to take action that will lead to reform but also a resolution to be transparent with the public about how our policies will achieve public safety and protect victims and survivors.

3. Do you commit to collect and share publicly data from the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office on a quarterly basis, including, at minimum, data that can be sorted demographically on  1) cases dismissed, nolle prossed or declined; 2) charges brought; 3)  bail recommendations made and accepted; 4) plea offers and agreements; 5) convictions and not guilty verdicts; 6) prosecutor demands for jury trial; and 7) sentencing recommendations?

Yes.

There are two primary reasons why it is important for the office to both collect data and share with the public.  The first is that meaningful criminal justice reform can be achieved only if it is grounded in, and driven by, an evidence-based approach.  This means capturing data in a reliable and consistent way and using that data to craft innovative policies and adopt best practices.  Second, collecting and publishing data is absolutely essential for public accountability; for there to be accountability, there must be transparency; and for there to be transparency, the office must regularly release data to the public in a manner and format the public can readily understand and analyze.  The data should include demographics information on charging, prosecution, and sentencing recommendations and decisions cross-referenced by, among other things, race, gender, and immigration status.  Right now, it would appear that the data does exist in the files of the Commonwealth’s Attorney but there seems to be no policy to release it to the community unless in response to a specific Freedom of Information Act request, and even then, the release is not in a format the public can easily understand.  My goal upon taking office is to retain data collection experts to first conduct an internal audit of the office, to release that information to the public, and then going forward to commit to publish quarterly reports in narrative form with attached appendices.

4. Will you commit that your office will adopt and publish a policy of non-cooperation with ICE?

Yes.

The foreign-born population is nearly 23% for Arlington County and 18% for the City of Falls Church, which, in each instance, is significantly higher than the national average of 13%.  What this means is that for the sake of public safety it is vitally important that the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney establish and maintain a relationship of trust with the immigrant community.  As such, my office will commit in writing not to enter into any cooperation agreement with ICE because I believe such cooperation would foster distrust with the immigrant community, interfere with community policing, and ultimately detract from public safety.  For the same reasons, my office will also commit to take immigration status into consideration when making charging decisions on minor infractions in order to make certain that charges unintentionally lead wot ICE collateral consequences.

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