OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — Many community groups say Pamela Price’s win in the Alameda County District Attorney’s race against veteran prosecutor Terry Wiley signals that big changes are ahead.
“I think it really speaks to the energy and community’s willingness to think about. How do we reimagine public safety?” says Sandy Valenciano, director of Campaign and Organizing at Urban Peace Movement, an advocacy group that seeks alternatives to incarceration and investing more in violence prevention programs.
Valenciano acknowledges the attempts at reforms by the current district attorney’s office. But she adds that, with Price, things can be much different.
“We believe that reforms aren’t happening fast enough. And we aren’t seeing the full benefit and use of some of the alternatives that are being put in place,” she said.
She points to Price’s stated goals, such as ending the practice of charging youth as adults, and expanding diversion programs, which are alternatives to jail. She calls these “big shifts” in the criminal justice system, especially for communities of color.
“It’s a system that unfortunately has targeted black and brown communities, and so her acknowledging this, I think gives us a lot of hope in thinking about, how do we move away from these punitive systems and actually really tackle public safety,” Valenciano said.
Saabir Lockett is deputy director Political Engagement at the East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economies, or EBASE. It is a community labor organization, which in parts, fights for low-wage workers. He, too, is encouraged by Price’s win.
“Terry Wiley and Pamela Price could have a similar platform, but the difference is that Pamela comes with new ideas — ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking,” Lockett said.
He says Price’s proposals for more police accountability, workers’ rights enforcement and lowering rates of recidivism, are the types of reforms that many hope the new district attorney can deliver.
“The D.A. has a lot of power at even convicting. So now, there are opportunities for diversion programs and mental health programs,” Lockett said.
Across the bay in the City and County of San Francisco, voters had similar ideas for criminal justice reform. But then, their newly elected progressive District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, was ousted in a recall election in June.
Lockett says, the fact the Price won just months later on a comparable progressive platform, shows that Alameda County voters want a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform.
“The whole ‘lock ’em, lock ’em, lock ’em, more police, more police,’ is really just a backward analysis, because, at the end of the day, you can have 100 police on every corner and someone is just going to do crime in a different place. The root causes (are) poverty and disinvestment,” Lockett said.
After her win, Price tweet: “My administration will begin an era of change that ultimately will make us stronger and safer.”
She takes office in January.
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