The week(s) started out in the best possible way. Pillars & Bridges of Tucson, a Black-led group working hard to create spaces that bring the community together with its elected officials, invited us to a massive fresh food grocery giveaway. More than 35,000 pounds of food were driven down from Phoenix in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture, and we had 17 PCAO employees join community and law enforcement in the Food City parking lot on a Saturday morning helping distribute boxes of food.
Now, on to what’s been happening since then.
- We are slowly moving employees back into the Legal Services Building. Even I finally made the cut and am back downtown! After an alarming outbreak in our very first two weeks of the new administration, all those infected seem to be recovering positively, and I remain committed to doing my very darndest to not lose a single employee.
- Observation of Initial Appearances has resumed, and we now have a Cash Bail working group inside the Office with stakeholder groups helping from outside the Office to give this issue the attention it deserves. A full divorce from cash at detention hearings will require legislative change, and we are looking at model legislation. But in the meantime, I remain convinced there is much good that can be done. We will have to rely on high cash bonds to hold those individuals where evidence demonstrates an ongoing threat to the safety of our community. As for low cash bonds, we are working with the Initial Appearance Judges, Pre-Trial Services, and our legal partners to set up a new structure of legal representation for misdemeanors and for arguing for conditions of release when no threat to the community is present.
- Our Conviction and Sentence Integrity Unit (CSIU) is open for business, and cases for review are already arriving. We hope that, by summer, we’ll have law students, interns, clerks, and attorneys getting a chance to work with nationally-renowned Professor Jack Chin, CSIU Chief & PCAO Senior Counsel, on this exciting and crucial work.
- I put out a Request for Proposal to Code for America to see if I can use their software to begin identifying those who qualify for expungement of a marijuana conviction, following the overwhelming passage of Prop 207. That promises to be a rewarding project for the summer.
- Juvenile justice remains at the forefront. We are working on ways to keep even serious cases in the juvenile system, and we are taking a deep look at both Teen Court and the Community Justice Boards. I had meetings with senior administrators in Juvenile Court, and I met with County Supervisor Grijalva and TUSD Board Member Shaw to stay on top of our children’s needs. We want to think broadly about how to best treat children charged with serious offenses and how best to keep kids from ever landing in the system at all. And some of that is just about showing up. My son and I have very much missed our weekly “big kid” reading nights at Pueblo Gardens since school has been virtual, so we were thrilled to be invited to Zoom into classrooms across the County for #LoveofReadingWeek. Extra thanks to Tony Gallego for filming on the grass!
To be continued,