By Cynthia Rodriguez
The Davis Vanguard last week posted an editorial claiming the Yolo District Attorney is running a campaign that is “masterful” in its level of deception about how well he has performed in office. What this misses is that Yolo residents are not fooled; the DA has garnered a legacy of non-transparency, unequal justice, mass incarceration. My approach will be different; criminal justice is about the community’s need for safety, equality and transparency.
As DA, I will update Yolo monthly on the DA’s business, including charges and convictions, because transparency is essential to public confidence in the justice system. Yolo county does not have transparency with this DA. There is no reason that he has not published the data on his offices practices, including charging and sentencing, more than once every 16 years.
Additionally, my office will much more aggressively utilize existing first-offender diversion programs that have been proven to be the most effective way to deal with low-level offenses. Inexplicably, the DA almost never utilizes resources related to mental health diversion, despite data that shows over 50% of cases involve mental health issues. Diversion programs have the lowest recidivism rate in criminal justice, whereas prison commitments have over 60% recidivism, or return to crime/custody rate, most expensive and ineffective way to reduce crime. This approach worsens Yolo’s challenges with mental health, homelessness, and drug and alcohol dependency. The $100k (approximately) that we spend for a single custody year in prison does not prepare prisoners to return safely to the community. Bad investment! The result is tent cities under overpasses and sick and desperate residents.
A budget is often said to be nothing more than a list of priorities. My priorities are the systems and policies that will have a positive effect on life in Yolo County, and benefit the residents of Yolo. The DA has a very large budget, it just has not yet been directed toward helping the people of Yolo. Instead, the DA has been spending Yolo’s money lobbying in Sacramento on statewide political issues. Working with youth to stymie gang involvement, collaborating with medical opportunities for treatment, and prioritizing safety from prisoners returning to the community are proven useful programs.
16 years was more than long enough for Reisig to figure out how to bring safety to Yolo (he hasn’t), to prevent smash and grabs (he hasn’t) and to put in place strategies to bring down youth crime (he has not) and to deal with homelessness (he has not). These problems have gotten worse under his watch and he now wants to assure people that he has changed his ways and should be re-elected. The ridiculousness of this proposal is not lost on voters. My message of prioritizing local public safety, criminal justice reform, and equal justice reflects the values of Yolo County voters.
Cynthia Rodriguez is a former public defender running for District Attorney in Yolo County