Rodriguez Speaks to Need to Address Poverty and Holistic Community Issues

By Robert J. Hansen

West Sacramento, CA – Cynthia Rodriguez, candidate for Yolo County District Attorney, spoke on Wednesday to a group of West Sacramento residents about how poverty compromises community safety and her vision of restorative justice.

A group of West Sacramento residents invited both candidates—Incumbent Jeff Reisig and Challenger Rodriguez—to speak, but only Rodriguez accepted the invite.

Rodriguez said good people fall victim to poverty and a system that doesn’t give people a break or a second chance often leads them to live in poverty.

“If we don’t recognize that by keeping people in poverty by failing to lift them we are subjecting them to continued violence,” Rodriguez said.

The issue of what happens to poor people is not something that can be resolved by saying “everybody has a chance,” according to Rodriguez.

“There is a section of our society that not only doesn’t know that but they don’t care,” Rodriguez said. ”In order to have safety, we have to give safety.”

Candidate for Yolo County District Attorney, Cynthia Rodriguez (right), at a community meeting with residents in West Sacramento on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.  (Photo by David Greenwald)

Rodriguez said the percentage of Black people in the Yolo County Jail is eight times higher than the percentage of Black people that live in Yolo County.

Yolo DA Jeff Reisig and Rodriguez were at an endorsement interview with a local newspaper and were asked about their relationships with minority communities, according to Rodriguez.

“The whole problem with his answer was that nowhere in there was there anything about how he reached out to the community,” Rodriguez said.

She said that says something about how he will maintain relationships and address the issues of the overrepresentation of people who are Black, Latino, or Native American in jail.

“I have never heard a statement out of his mouth that poverty is violence,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez says the DA’s office needs to be ready to create a community, which is done by reaching out to those who haven’t had a genuine opportunity to be part of society.

She said oftentimes people who broke the law did not come from a safe home environment or didn’t have a safe school or were always living in poverty and were put in jail or prison early on, setting them up for a lifetime of poverty or imprisonment.

That means first-time offenders, misdemeanor offenders, and nonviolent offenders need to be given a second chance before they are given a criminal record, according to Rodriguez.

“Why are you going to put them in prison and turn them into prisoners? People who go to prison have a recidivism rate of two-thirds,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that is creating that many more victims.

“By treating people who make mistakes a better way we can create more safety for others,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriques told West Sacramento residents that in Yolo County, DA Reisig makes people plead guilty to a charge before diversion is offered and that in other counties diversion is offered before a plea deal.

“Why does Yolo get a worse shake than the rest of the state? It’s about control,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t need someone who needs to control everything.”

She said Yolo needs a new DA so that the younger generations will know racial equality, and economic equality and not see a society where rich people can get away with breaking the law while poor people are put through the wringer.

“West Sacramento has suffered in the 16 years Reisig has been in charge,” Rodriguez said. “I’m here to assure you that when we win, we will be listening to what West Sacramento needs.”

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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  1. Keith Olson

    Rodriguez said the percentage of Black people in the Yolo County Jail is eight times higher than the percentage of Black people that live in Yolo County.

    But as we recently learned:

    “two-thirds of violent crimes committed by Black people are out-of-county residents and the other third are in-county”

    1. David Greenwald

      Hi Rick – I think you make an interesting point, but there is another piece to it.

      In the relatively short period of time – a decade and a half – that I’ve been doing this, there has been a real sea change. For example, most public defender offices now practice what they call Holistic defense, not only working on the criminal side, but providing people with the resources so that hopefully they can escape from the criminal legal system.

      By the same token, many prosecutors are also recognizing there is an interesting (maybe disturbing) patterns – that is the cycle from victim to perpetrator. Most people caught up in the legal system started out as victims of various crimes and abuse and so prosecutors too are recognizing the need to other more in the way of services to victims as a means of crime prevention down the line.

      1. Rick Entrikin

        Thanks for the elucidation, David.   What I and my neighbors and friends want, first and foremost is a DA who will get criminals off the streets (and out of our vehicles and off of our property).  If that means incarceration, so be it.  If it means something other than what you call “a cage,” so be it – as long as innocent, law-abiding citizens are protected and do not become victims.

        IMO, Jeff Reisig is doing a good job at that and also has been proactive in implementing a more holistic approach to ensure equity and better outcomes for all.

        I also applaud sincere efforts to reach into the causes and break the cycle of a “life” of crime.  And that is where I believe people such as Cynthia Rodriguez might be most effective.

        Ideally, people such as Reisig and Rodriguez could work together, bringing their various skills and experiences to bear on problems for the common good.  Instead, they are engaged as adversaries, where only one can win and the other will lose.

        We need to find a way to overcome that all/none, right/wrong mentality and work towards a win-win system of social support and criminal justice.  Until then we all lose.

        1. David Greenwald

          I think everyone wants to find ways to get criminals off the street.

          The best way is not to let people become criminals in the first place. That’s what I was talking about and I think what Rodriguez was as well. Throwing someone in a cage – we have learned more and more – is not the best way to accomplish that. Obviously there are poeple who are a big enough risk to the safety to the community that you have no choice, but most people thrown in prison will be released at some point and giving them skills and tools to avoid committing a new crime is another important step. I think increasingly Reisig understands that you have to do more than simply lock someone in a cage to produce public safety.

  2. Steve Murphy

    The data from the DA’s Commons portal shows that for Sept 20-Sept 21 felonies charged, Black Yolo county residents were charged at a rate of 5.25x their population — and if you include the number of “Black/Residence Unknown” the number rises to nearly 8x.   There’s no data regarding jail populations in that data.  It is true that during the 13 months reported, slightly more out of county Blacks (41%) than residents (38%) were charged with felonies but it’s not 2:1.  In any event, this should give no one cause to walk away from the data comforted that our criminal justice system is working equally for all our citizens.  Our DA needs to do more to address these issues, not simply report it, take a victory tour for being ‘transparent’ and then take no responsibility.

    1. Rick Entrikin

      If, just if, Black individuals are actually committing more felonies than, say white people, why should our District Attorney or criminal justice system be blamed or expected to rectify that disparity?

      If people of a certain demographic are committing more crimes, the most logical solution would be to treat the “root causes” through education, social support and early intervention.

      Electing a different DA for Yolo County would have ZERO impact on who is actually committing felonies.

  3. Ron Oertel

    “I have never heard a statement out of his mouth that poverty is violence,” Rodriguez said.

    With that comment, Rodriguez has most-assuredly lost my (tentative) support, at least. I have known people (including people “of color”) who didn’t resort to violence (or any other crime) as a result of relatively-impoverished conditions.

    Nor does the vast majority of the world, who live in worse conditions.

    This is the same noise we’ve been hearing for decades, only “repackaged”.

    Now if you want to say that those living in impoverished communities experience (on average) more violence themselves, there’s little doubt of that. (And that’s when a prosecutor is needed.)

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