21st Century Justice

District Attorneys wield tremendous power in our criminal justice system.  They decide who to charge, which charges to bring, how much bail to request, what sentences to recommend, and even whether to reduce or dismiss charges.  These decisions have enormous consequences for accused individuals, for victims and for communities as a whole. So, it’s important to have a discussion about the appropriate uses of prosecutorial power.  For too long, that power has been focused on punishment and incarceration for all levels of crime instead of concentrating on removing from the community those who cause the most harm, the “drivers of crime,” while promoting rehabilitation and diversion for those that don’t pose a threat to public safety.

Tragically, we have tried to incarcerate our way out of the opioid crisis. We are incarcerating persons with mental illness instead of diverting them into appropriate treatment programs. What we should be doing in each case is figuring out what outcome is best for the victim, the community and whether there is an opportunity to rehabilitate the defendant. What intervention will keep us safer and what intervention will strengthen the community? Throughout New York there are successful diversion programs, which are providing treatment and rehabilitation for persons with substance abuse disorders, mental health problems, veterans and youth. These programs offer defendants the opportunity to be accountable and to repair the harm they’ve done. The Ulster County District Attorney’s office has woefully neglected diversion programs.

I’m Dave Clegg and I’m running to be your next Ulster County District Attorney.  I want to focus on convicting the “drivers of crime”, promote rehabilitation and engage our community as a partner in justice. In the following weeks, this column will explain the problems that plague our criminal justice system and present solutions for them. I hope you will support me in brining 21st century justice to Ulster County, by making our community safer more just for all.

Dave Clegg brings four decades of experience practicing criminal defense, and nine years as an Ulster County Public Defender.  He has fought for the rights of victims his entire career. Dave is the Chairperson of the Ulster County Human Rights Commission and has been a leader in our community for decades.

Originally featured in-print by Hudson Valley One, 8/29/19