Pamela McGraw for Grayson County District Attorney in Texas
Time for a Real Change in the D.A.’s office
The culture of the D.A.’s office must change. We must seek real justice for victims and others caught up in the criminal justice system.
For too long the Grayson County DA’s Office has been driven by a win-at-any-cost culture that prioritizes high conviction rates and harsh sentencing over more effective approaches that are proven to reduce crime. As District Attorney, Pamela McGraw will fundamentally change that culture from a culture of seeking victory for prosecutors to a culture seeking justice for victims.
Of the 2,437 elected prosecutors in America (at both the both federal and county levels), 79 percent were white men — even though white men made up only 31 percent of the population, according to a 2014 report by the San Francisco‑based nonprofit Women Donors Network. That disparity, the report said, is a “structural flaw in the justice system” that has cascading effects — like reducing accountability for police officers.
Perhaps no one in the US is more important to dispensing justice than a prosecutor. Indeed, Robert Jackson, a Supreme Court justice in the 1940’s and early 50’s, said a prosecutor “has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America.” The election of a prosecutor is potentially the greatest moment for us to focus on a discussion of what we expect our prosecutors to do. Elect Pamela McGraw and she will transform the culture of the D.A.’s office so as to seek real justice for the victims and others caught up in the criminal justice system.
Stop prosecuting insufficient and insignificant cases
The Grayson County DA’s Office prosecutes most all of the cases forwarded by the police. It acts as an arm of the police rather than a guardian of the public trust in its own right. Not only does this clog the courts, delaying trials, but it contributes to Grayson County’s high incarceration rate. This over-prosecution results from a toxic culture that prizes prosecution over promoting justice and focuses on winning convictions at any cost, too often at the cost of justice itself. Pamela McGraw will decline to prosecute cases forwarded by the police that lack support by sufficient and legally obtained evidence.
Review past convictions, free the wrongfully convicted
The Grayson County DA’s Office has resisted exposing new evidence that might reveal that a conviction was made in error or through misconduct by police or prosecution. If elected, Pamela McGraw will seize every opportunity to expose evidence that might allow an innocent person to go free no matter how many years have passed. That means fully staffing the Conviction Review Unit with prosecutors whose character and proven history of protection the innocent are clear. To prevent wrongful convictions in the future, Pamela McGraw will ensure that all potentially exculpatory evidence be shared with the defense and will generally require as a matter of policy that confessions taken by police be videotaped whenever possible to be entered into evidence. Police officers found to have lied on the stand will be disqualified from testifying.
Review past convictions, free those ready for rehabilitation
So often offenders leaving the prison system re-offend within the first year of release. If elected Pamela McGraw will review past convictions to locate inmates that would be appropriate to enter into a rehabilitation program upon release that will help them become productive citizens without re-offending. These individuals will be provided an early release incentive to participate in an intense rehabilitative program such as is offered by Cenikor in Fort Worth and Houston.
Target the crimes that matter most
Too many resources are being used to prosecute minor property crimes and minor drug offenses, often related to addiction. Additionally, too much of our resources are spent prosecuting poor working people who caught driving a vehicle with a suspended license. Often they are working at trying to pay off the surcharges that prevent them from obtaining their license to drive. It simply does not make sense for Grayson County residents to pay $60.00 a day to incarcerate these individuals and cause them to lose their jobs. As the Grayson County District Attorney, Pamela McGraw will push for more proactive, intelligence-based policing and will shift prosecutorial resources to focus on the most serious crimes against people, including sexual assault, organized criminal activity and homicides.
Treat victims with respect and sensitivity
Too often, the District Attorney’s office has failed to prioritize the needs of victims. The response to violence should be centered on the needs of survivors and based on accountability and developed in consultation with victim advocates and experts. Pamela McGraw will expand support of victim/witness service programs and use a trauma-informed, evidence-based approach to improve handling of cases, particularly cases of sexual and intimate partner violence, and to improve communication with victims and family members.
A significant amount of the people being held in the Grayson County Jail have not been convicted–they simply cannot afford bail and are awaiting trial. Because the courts are clogged with cases, they wait in jail awaiting trial. We pay about $60.00 a day to house a person in the Grayson County Jail because they can’t afford bail, which is sometimes less than a $1000.00. While suspects who are dangerous to others or who may not return for trial will still be held, Pamela McGraw will implement alternatives to bail for those charged with non-violent offenses, including monitoring and regular check-ins. Certainly people charged with non-violent and minor misdemeanor offenses that who have not failed to appear in the past should be allowed to proceed on a promise to appear at trial without an actual formal arrest or having to post a surety or cash bond. This allows our citizens to remain employed.
While re-focusing the DA’s Office on prosecuting serious crimes, Pamela McGraw will seek alternatives to incarceration – dramatically reducing the number of prisoners held, saving millions of tax dollars, and letting wounded communities begin to heal.
Last year drug cases dominated the court’s calendar. Pamela McGraw knows that the solution to drug addiction is treatment, not incarceration. Prisons are ill-equipped to treat addiction. As District Attorney, Pamela will build up Grayson County’s drug court capacity and increase opportunities for diversion, allowing those arrested for drug possession or for minor offenses due to addiction to get the treatment they need instead of incarceration.
Pamela McGraw will end the counter-productive “snitching” program. When someone is in the throes of their addiction they simply are not credible and reliable witnesses. They should not be provided incentives to become an “unreliable” agent for the State. When addicts work as snitches it prevents them from getting the help they need to combat their addiction. Pamela McGraw will require that all criminal defendants participating in rehabilitative programs provide a complete debriefing for the police, but the police will be required to do their own detective work.
Ineffective, divisive police measures fail to make us safe. They also divide police and the neighborhoods they protect, increasing unnecessary conflict and making police work more dangerous. Pamela McGraw will work with the police departments to reform divisive law enforcement tactics while holding suspects and police officers equally accountable as the law requires. Victims of crime, their families, our communities and all suspects deserve transparency and fairness in determining the truth.