Wednesday, April 7, 2010

PRESS RELEASE: Redwood ACLU to Hold DA Candidates’ Debate on Civil Liberties

April 7, 2010


Attention: For Immediate Release

Redwood ACLU to Hold DA Candidates’ Debate on Civil Liberties

The Redwood Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announces the Candidates' Debate on Civil Liberties for all four ballot-qualified candidates for District Attorney of Humboldt County, to be held on Thursday, April 15th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Senior Room of the Arcata Community Center, 321 Community Park Way.

This debate will be held before a live audience (the capacity of the Senior Room is over 100 people) and in cooperation with independent producers working with Access Humboldt it will also be aired live on public access Channel 12 and will likewise be available for later viewing on-line.

The debate will be moderated by Redwood ACLU chair Greg Allen, and shall be staffed by other members of the Board of Directors of the Redwood ACLU, although any persons who have made any sort of campaign contribution or endorsement of any of the candidates in this year's election are excluded from involvement.

“We’re anticipating a lively debate where we really dig deep into the justice system here in Humboldt County,” Allen said. “We’ve strived to strike a balance where the debate will get some answers on vital civil rights issues from each candidate, but also leave plenty of room to address other concerns raised by community members.”

The Redwood ACLU held the only televised debate for candidates for the Northern Humboldt High School District in 2005 at the Senior Room of the Arcata Community Center, and has also presented civil liberties-oriented forums for local city council races over the last six years. The Redwood ACLU, based in Eureka with over 850 members across the North Coast, is a non-partisan organization that never endorses or opposes candidates for public office. Our state affiliate, the ACLU of Northern California, is also providing support for this event.

The format of the debate will start with opening statements and an airing of the candidate’s views on five questions posed by the moderator concerning civil liberties issues in Humboldt County. All other questions will be posed by the live audience via notecards, followed by closing statements. Each candidate will have the opportunity to issue rebuttals to the statements of others.

Members of the press or public with questions may contact the Redwood ACLU at (707) 442-4419 or, or drop by our office at 917 Third Street in Old Town Eureka.


Humboldt County DA Candidates,

As promised, here's our five questions (in no particular order) which will be asked in the first phase of our Candidates' Debate on Civil Liberties on Thursday night. Any last minute queries may be directed to Redwood ACLU Chair Greg Allen. See you all tomorrow evening!

1. The state is facing the worst budget crisis in nearly a century and
spending on corrections is an enormous drain on the General Fund. Please
explain how your charging and plea bargaining policies would consider the
impact of your decisions on the state budget. Do you support reducing
spending on corrections, if so, how, and if not, how do you propose to
fund the current corrections system?

2. Please explain what the policy of your office would be regarding the
application of the Three Strikes Law and what criteria you would use to
determine when to charge someone with a second or third strike. Would you
ever prosecute non-violent felonies such as petty theft as a third strike
under the law, and would you support reforming the Three Strikes Law to
require that the third strike be a violent felony?

3. While studies show that people use and sell drugs at the same rate
regardless of race and ethnicity, persons of color are more likely to be
sent to prison on drug charges. Please explain what the policy of your
office would be regarding plea bargaining in drug offense cases. Do you
support sending non-violent drug offenders to state prison, and would you
encourage plea bargains that include drug treatment and rehabilitation in
place of incarceration and state prison?

4. Zero tolerance policies in schools have led to greater criminalization
of young people. When a school calls the police, the District Attorney
decides whether to prosecute the behavior as a crime or to respond through
another route such as school discipline. Once they are part of the
criminal justice system, youth are much more likely to re-offend in a more
serious way, creating a pipeline from schools to prisons. Do you support
sending young offenders to restorative justice programs and other avenues
that divert young people out of the juvenile justice system and toward new
opportunities, and if so, what would you do as District Attorney to
promote such programs?

5. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted last year to form a Law
Enforcement Committee which empowers local citizens to review the
policies, practices and procedures of the Sheriff's Department, and
also opens the door for the hiring of an independent police auditor in
situations where law enforcement is involved in a controversial use of
violent or deadly force. The Arcata General Plan adopted ten years ago
likewise calls for police review, and the City Council of Eureka has also
considered hiring an independent police auditor. Please explain your
position on independent civilian oversight of law enforcement. How would
you handle a fatal use of force incident involving local police?