People with addiction have been marginalized by a punitive justice system that perpetuates stigma by approaching addiction as a moral issue rather than a chronic
health condition. That marginalization often follows us into recovery, complicating our relationship with society and making good citizenship more difficult. Fortunately,
here in Michigan we are able to make our voices heard at the ballot box. People in recovery, our friends and allies make up a diverse and significant constituency.
Participation in the political process is one way for us to try to help those who are not yet in recovery.
The majority of court-involved people have substance use disorders making the criminal justice system the biggest referral source to treatment. While it is usually a
police officer who has first contact with a person coming into the system, a prosecutor can set the tone as to how that case will be handled by the court. Often a “nudge
from a judge” gets people started in treatment or more in-depth involvement in a specialty drug or sobriety court. Judges often rely on the recommendations of prosecutors.
Progressive prosecutors understand the benefits of addiction treatment and other social services compared to the costs of incarceration.
There is an exciting race happening for the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office. All of the candidates, Arianne Slay, Eli Savit and Hugo Mack have pledged to increase
the scope of the county’s specialty courts and to implement other systems that will divert more people away from incarceration and into meaningful treatment.
WRAP asked the candidates to outline briefly, why a person in recovery, an ally, or a family member should vote for them in the August 4, 2020 Democratic primary.
Greetings from Ypsilanti! I am Arianne Slay, and I am seeking your support in the August Primary for Washtenaw County Prosecutor! I started my career at Washtenaw County Community Corrections as a Program Manager linking clients who were involved in the criminal justice system with services for mental health, employment, and substance abuse. Since my days at Community Corrections and still today, I see too many people in jail who should be in treatment. As the next County Prosecutor, I will work with Sheriff Clayton to help facilitate the LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) Program, which provides the opportunity to divert non-violent offenders who present in crisis away from the criminal justice system. If individuals are ready to start or restart a treatment plan, the Prosecutor’s Office will hold their criminal case in abeyance while they receive treatment. Following a demonstrated commitment to working their treatment plan, the case will not be charged.
I have 12 years’ experience as a prosecutor, and 9 years handling cases that ranged from trespass to homicide. During the majority of those years, I was the Lead Domestic Violence Prosecutor. For the last two years, I have served as the City of Ann Arbor Prosecutor bringing true reforms to life with diversion, restorative practices and our first City Warrant Resolution Day. I am looking for your support to bring these and other Experienced-Based Reforms to the Criminal Justice System in Washtenaw County. For more information, please visit arianneslay.com or Arianne Slay for Washtenaw County Prosecutor on Facebook.
For decades, we’ve treated addiction as a crime, instead of a health issue. The results have been devastating. Around 80% of those in Washtenaw’s criminal-justice system are dealing with addiction. Rather than provide help, we’ve cycled people who are struggling with addiction through jails and prisons.
And the sentence doesn’t end when people are released. The stigma of a criminal record too frequently impacts people’s ability to get a job, secure housing, or continue their education.
I’m running for prosecutor to change that. I’m committed to treating addiction like a public-health issue. When I’m prosecutor, diversion will be the norm, not the exception. When someone is referred to the prosecutor for an addiction-related matter, we will generally decline to bring criminal charges. Instead, we’ll work with community partners to secure the help that person needs.
Even when we opt to bring criminal charges, we’ll make full use of recovery courts, where— rather than jailing people—the court, providers, and the person charged work collaboratively on a recovery plan. We’ll thus avoid imposing criminal consequences on people for health issues, and give those struggling with addiction a path towards recovery.
We must also assist people who have already been affected by our criminal-justice system. Forthcoming legislation offers an opportunity to do so. Pending legislation will dramatically expand the availability of expungement—meaning people with substance-related criminal records can wipe their records clean. I’m proud to have worked on that legislation. And when I’m prosecutor, we’ll work to ensure that every eligible person can obtain a fresh start. Lawyers from our office will work with affected people, inform them of their rights, and help navigate our confusing expungement system.
Together—as a community—we’ll move beyond our current, counterproductive criminal-justice policies. Together, we‘ll put our community on a brighter path forward.
A born-and-raised Washtenaw County resident, Eli Savit currently serves as senior legal counsel at the City of Detroit, and as a lecturer at the University of Michigan Law School. Previously, he was a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court, and an attorney in private practice. Learn more about Eli’s campaign for Washtenaw prosecutor at http:// eli2020.com.
Hugo J. Mack
We are all the sum of our life experiences and experience is truly the greatest teacher and expositor of character and integrity.
During my decades as a Public Defender and Criminal Defense Attorney, I have defended thousands of citizens with mental health/substance issues; I always fought for treatment versus incarceration.
I was incarcerated for ten years within the MDOC, paying a debt I did not owe. I know what it means to be stigmatized and marginalized for a life experience/condition. Within that time, I saw thousands of citizens in “Med Line”, human beings living in the reality of sedation, not treatment, counseling and recovery.
In 1992, the Engler administration closed vital recovery centers like Lafayette in Detroit, sending citizens on a course to jail, conviction and incarceration.
Law enforcement is not trained or equipped to provide these services. Attorney General Nessel agrees with me on this crucial failure of our “system” to address mental health/substance issues.
Unlike District Court, there are no mental health/substance Circuit Courts, the creation of which my office will fully support.
My pledge to the community:
1. My office will monitor all cases involving mental health/substance issues and work within the confines of law and public safety to track those cases towards treatment and recovery versus in-carceration.
2. My office, as with all cases, will not “overcharge” defendants in order to gain advantage in plea-bargaining.
3. Returning citizens will not be penalized in subsequent charges merely because they had/ have a mental health/substance issue.
4. My office will work with the Court and Probation Department in finding more effective/ efficient programs and resources in addressing mental health/substance issues.
We are better together than apart. Mental health/ substance issues can and do affect us on a personal level. The days of marginalizing those of us in need of communal support ends January 1, 2021 as your next County Prosecutor.