Giving Voice to the Voiceless
Veterans serve and sacrifice for our country and communities. It is time we acknowledge the life-altering consequences their selfless acts can have.
In 2010, the Illinois Legislature enacted the Veterans and Service members Court Treatment Act. The legislation was acknowledgment of the unique circumstances veterans oftentimes suffer as a result of their service. Post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and chronic pain from injuries sometimes leads to substance abuse or other dependent behavior.
While Rock Island County currently has a “veterans component” to the existing mental health and drug courts, this is insufficient. Due to service members specific and often traumatic experiences, they have needs the current system cannot meet.
Over 10,000 veterans live in Rock Island County – they deserve the very best care we have to offer. I want to make sure they receive it.
Commitment to Efficiency and Accountability
I am a firm believer that the State’s Attorney Office should be about performance and working hard for the community.
The Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office currently has a civil division with three full-time attorneys. Yet the current administration spends thousands of dollars on outside counsel, a needless expense to taxpayers.
One complaint that I heard repeatedly from law enforcement is that cases drag on and on. I will create case management standards that ensure cases are resolved in an efficient and timely manner. There is no reason for a misdemeanor to drag out over 12 months or for most felonies not to be resolved in 18 months. Criminal cases don’t improve with age. Witnesses move, memories fade and alliances change. Delay is a tactic used by defense attorneys to wear the prosecution down.
I will not waste taxpayer money and will ensure that we are accountable to the community.
Safety of Children
The cornerstone of a humanistic society is that we protect those among us who unable to protect themselves. That is why I have worked so hard on children’s issues.
When I was in the State’s Attorney’s Office, child victims were brought to the courthouse to be interviewed by me. This meant that children had to go through a metal detector. After going through the metal detector, they were oftentimes exposed to inmates on the first floor in shackles. Sometimes charges were filed and sometimes they were not. I can’t tell you how hard it is to lead a child by the hand into a courtroom to testify. This is a process that must be done right.
I knew the interview process need to be improved and set about to change it. Luckily, I had the help of Denise Gonzalez, Jennifer O’Hare and Linda Schroeder to get this done. We wanted a better setting in which to interview children. We also wanted the interviews done by people who had been specifically trained in how to question children who have suffered trauma.
After I went into private practice, I continued to support the Advocacy Center by doing the work necessary for it to achieve 501(c) (3) status. Additionally, we recognized that grants and state funding could not be relied upon. In 1999, we decided a property tax referendum should be pursued. At that time, taxpayer with a $91,000.00 home would pay an assessment of $1.20 per year. I spoke to groups such as Rotary and Kiwanis about the need to have a property tax referendum to support the center. The referendum passed; Rock Island County is one of three counties in the State of Illinois having an advocacy center supported by a referendum.
Actions speak louder than words. I have spent countless hours supporting the Advocacy Center. Additionally, I served on the Child Death Review Team (Peoria Team) for ten years, served two terms on the boards for the YWCA and Child Abuse Council. I will stack my commitment to this community against that of my opponent.
Using Data to Ensure Consistency
We currently have a crisis of confidence in our criminal justice system. People want and deserve a system that fair to everyone, not just those who can afford an expensive attorney or escape implicit bias. It is said that mathematics is a better form of communication than art or music because numbers can put the world into perspective for us.
Too often, citizens equate the criminal justice system with just law enforcement. The truth is that full panoply of the criminal justice system is comprised of police, prosecutors, judges, prisons and non custodial personnel, such as probation officers. The collection of data from the time a charge is brought to it’s conclusion will provide insights to areas such as the incidence of crime, cases moving through the system, consistency in outcomes for like offenses, and recidivism. Additionally, we need more information on diversionary programs such as mental health, drug and veterans courts. This data collection is essential to protect the community, develop effective anti-crime programs and administer justice to those in the system.
The use of data, whether on the issue of who gets a recognizance bond or the offer made as a plea bargain, will provide assurance to defendants and the community that the system in Rock Island County is fair.