The Sierra Club Yolano Group sent out a questionnaire to both candidates for Yolo County District Attorney. Dean Johansson responded – his answers are below.
The group sent Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig three emails informing him of the questionnaire and a certified letter containing the questionnaire itself. Mr. Reisig did not respond to any of the requests nor did he fill out the questionnaire mailed to him.
The following are Dean Johansson’s responses to the group’s questions.
What do you believe are the most serious and/or prevalent types of environmental crimes in Yolo Co.?
I believe that the most serious environmental crimes in Yolo County are employers’ disregard of workers’—and particularly farm workers’—safety through exposing them to harmful chemicals and other dangerous working conditions.
What are the impacts of these environmental crimes on Yolo Co. residents and how will you address them?
These crimes have serious impacts on the health and well-being of Yolo County residents. I will address them by prosecuting environmental crimes, including employers’ crimes against workers.
Do you believe there are disparities in the burden of environmental degradation and pollution facing minority and low-income communities in Yolo Co? If so, what are these disparities and how do they affect crime rates? If not, why do you believe such disparities do not exist or do not affect crime rates?
I believe that there are absolutely disparities in the burden of environmental degradation and pollution; these problems disproportionately impact the most vulnerable members of our communities. While it is certainly likely that these environmental harms, and the resulting health problems and poverty, lead to increased rates of petty crimes, as DA I would address the root causes of these crimes by focusing primarily on the crimes that lead to these disparities (such as corporations’ pollution of the environment and violations of workers’ health and safety).
What will you do to either prevent future such disparities from developing and/or how would you address current disparities?
I will prosecute environmental crimes, including pollution, and will not allow corporations to continue to degrade our environment without consequences.
Do you believe there is a nexus between environmental justice and other social injustices (e.g. poor education, lack of health care, high unemployment and/or low pay, food insecurity, etc.) which play a role in increasing crime rates in Yolo Co? If so, how and what would you do to address these injustices to lower these resultant crime rates? If not, why not?
I think that there is absolutely a nexus between environmental injustice and other social injustices, and, given what I know about how poverty, poor health, and poor nutrition all lead to higher crime rates, I believe that it is likely that these compounding injustices lead to higher crime rates. I am most concerned with addressing the root causes of this increased crime, and that involves focusing my attention on the very crimes that lead to these disparities—such as corporate environmental crimes.
Do you believe distrust of law enforcement by environmentally or socially disadvantaged communities plays a role in criminal prosecution and crime prevention in Yolo Co? If so, how would you proactively reach out to socially disadvantaged communities to gain greater trust to aid law enforcement efforts? If not, why not?
I do believe that there is distrust of law enforcement and that this distrust can play a role at times in criminal prosecution and crime prevention. However, I believe that trust must be earned; therefore, I would begin to solve these problems by taking steps to ensure that law enforcement officers are accountable to their communities and that there is transparency around decisions related to law enforcement. For instance, I will ensure that in cases of alleged police misconduct, there is an independent investigation, and where there is evidence of misconduct, I will prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law. I will also ensure that our local law enforcement departments do not cooperate with ICE.
Do you believe the role of the District Attorney in Yolo Co. can beneficially extend beyond prosecution of crimes? If so, why and how can the DA role can be extended? If not, why not?
Yes, I believe that the DA’s prosecution decisions set the moral tone of the criminal justice system, and that these decisions therefore have reverberations that impact how our most vulnerable community members are treated. I will ensure that people are treated as full and worthy human beings within the criminal justice system, rather than dehumanized and treated as political pawns.
More particularly, the DA has a significant amount of power to make decisions about how money is spent, and I plan to divert money away from punitive measures toward rehabilitation, mental health and substance abuse treatment, education, and job training.
Drastically reduced bail requirements have been proposed by some for non-violent and/or minor offenses. Do you support this proposal and why or why not?
Yes, I absolutely support this proposal, and support a broader shift away from the money bail system. In our current system, people’s economic circumstances, rather than the seriousness of their offense, determine whether they are held in jail pre-trial. This system does not make us safer and seriously violates people’s rights, as poor people who do not pose a danger to society remain locked up, while rich people who do pose a danger to society go free.
Do you support restorative justice for some types of crime in Yolo County? If so, why and for what types of crimes? If not, why not?
Yes, I support restorative justice for some types of crime in Yolo County. Restorative justice enables offenders, victims, and communities to heal by addressing the root causes of crime. Currently, our county has opportunities for restorative justice for some low-level, nonviolent crimes (most often nonviolent offenses related to alcohol, such as open container violations, and petty theft). I would support taking careful steps toward offering restorative justice programs for more serious types of offenses.
Do you support minimum sentencing requirements? If so, why and for what types of crimes? If not, why not?
No, I do not support minimum sentencing requirements. I believe that the circumstances of each individual case must be evaluated to determine the appropriate sentencing decision.
What work have you done or accomplishments have you achieved as a lawyer to remedy environmental injustices?
During my time working as a civil rights lawyer in Sacramento, I represented farm workers who were subjected to unsanitary and unsafe working conditions at RH Phillips. This case led to a satisfactory settlement for the 15 women represented.
How much money have you collected overall to date and how much and from which unions, lawyers, or other entities doing business with the County of Yolo?
We have raised over $28,000 to date. It would be difficult to quantify the amount contributed by entities doing business with the County of Yolo, as donors did not provide direct information on whether they do business with Yolo in any capacity. We are more than happy to provide you with a list of our contributors.