by Robert J. Hansen
Candidates for Yolo County District Attorney, challenger Cynthia Rodriguez and incumbent Jeff Reisig, participated in another virtual forum last week.
Here are their responses to the moderator’s questions that day.
Reisig: “I’ve been the DA here in Yolo County, starting my 16th year. And before that, I was a deputy DA for 10 years. So, you know, almost 26 years boots on the ground as a criminal prosecutor right here in Yolo. During that time I’ve handled every kind of case you can imagine from the worst serial killer to child molest, rape robbery, all the way down to DUI and theft,” Reisig said. And the DA must have that type of experience. I mean, we are busy in Yolo. We handle about 7,000 cases a year from all over the county. What I’ll say about my opponent just briefly is she’s never handled a criminal case in her career, not one.”
Criminal Justice Reform
Reisig: “I think that the American criminal justice system is the best in the world by far, but it’s not perfect. Some things need to be fixed, and I’ve been doing that, but unlike some people, I don’t believe that the right way to fix the system is to tear it down, burn it down or defund it. I don’t believe in any of that, just hard stop. Instead. I think that the right way to manage the criminal justice system and improve it is much more nuanced. It’s much more data-driven. It’s much more down the middle,” Reisig said. “What I would say is all you need to do is Google Yolo County DA and look at what pops up all around the states and the country when it comes to these innovative criminal justice reform programs that I’ve been leading.”
Prosecuting Minors as Adults:
Reisig: “We need to help our kids as much as possible, which is one of the reasons why I promoted restorative justice for the probation department and their juvenile program,” Reisig said. “Trying juveniles as adults, you know, we’ve evolved over the last decade in California on this issue as the law has. What I mean by that is there was a time when it was much more common to try juveniles as adults for very serious crimes like shootings and robberies. That’s not the case anymore. Those numbers have dropped precipitously across California, but the law still does allow in very serious cases for a judge to bring a case up from juvenile to adult.”
Rodriguez: “I’ve supervised juveniles for many years in county offices. It’s a significant area of uplifting hope if we can provide this, the attention, and the needs of juveniles. In addition to that, when we talk about trying juveniles as adults when my opponent says he’s evolved, it means he’s recognized, but the things he did were fairly barbaric, and trying very young people, even under 16 years old as adults, in large numbers,” Rodriguez said. Not once in a while, not one bad case as he refers to now that he likes to bring out that one horrific case that a juvenile did something in and certainly should be held past 25 if he is not safe at that age.”
“Their office and the community build that trust. That really is so important.”
Rodriguez: “I have worked for over 20 years in both the county and the state system, and then the state system transparency has long been at issue because people are frustrated when they think the state is spending their money through the taxes without letting them know what they’re doing. At that level, we’ve always been highly ordered to make sure everything we are doing is made clear to the public. That is by yearly reports and information. I have seen the DA’s reports to the board of supervisors, which, I have to say, I do think in the past have been very vague. This program did really well. Here are some great things we did anecdotally, as opposed to clear numbers, and therefore we need $2 million more without going into what kind of full-time equivalency positions that would provide or exactly what at all it would provide,” Rodriguez said. “That level of transparency I’ve always had to follow when I was at the state level as opposed to all my time at the county level is something I would bring to the county. I think it’s very important that people are able, you know, so we don’t build because it doesn’t happen overnight. People have been brought to a point where they’re frustrated without systems that are spending their money and not letting them know. I don’t believe there’s been much at the county level. And while we wish that it could be that people just understood county workers are hard workers and they’re doing what they need to be doing. People wanna know more and I believe they have that absolute right to, it’s their money and their community that they wanna build. I believe this is a community office and I’m really in favor of a close relationship between the community and the DA’s office.”
Reisig: “I started a group called the multicultural community council and partnership with Dr. Jesse Ortiz, who was the superintendent of schools. And the simple idea behind that group was let’s bring in a diverse group of people from all over the county, different races, different religions, different everything. And let’s have a regular meeting with the DA and these individuals to be very transparent about what’s going on in the DA’s office and what they’re hearing in their community. And then let’s work together to try and build trust and relationships,” Reisig said. “Many of these people were supportive of law enforcement, but we worked together nonetheless. That’s the first thing we did. I also started the neighborhood court program 10 years ago, um, 300 plus volunteers from all over the community who serve with us to address cases through restorative justice, that type of community engagement, builds trust and confidence in the system. Maybe most significantly last year, I partnered with a group called Measures for Justice. I mentioned it’s a nonpartisan, nonprofit group out of New York. The simple goal was we wanted to be the most data transparent DA’s office in America.”
Rodriguez: I am running for district attorney because I envision a district attorney’s office that partners with the community, that doesn’t just speak to a few select individuals or groups, but is open to everybody coming and telling us their feelings. A DA that deals with the issue of racial injustice, as represented by our very skewed numbers in custody, in Yolo County, by talking to the people about it and hearing what they are concerned with and doing something about it. Besides just trying to ferret out deputies in my own office, which is what the blind charging thing does, and that should have been done years ago. So the fact that after 16 years, our DA can quote a couple of hundred people a month in a program when he admits that there are 7,000 people a month coming through court, that no is not a large number of people going to programs,” Rodriguez said.
“We know that programs are much more effective than incarceration in stopping people from continuing in the criminal cycle of behavior. So we need to have 30, 40, 50 percent, not five, not the tens percent he rose to after I challenged him to look at those programs. I know that our county will be happier and healthier if we address the trauma of our neighborhoods if we make sure people have safety out of our, drug programs, alcohol programs, and mental health, not for the few, but for the many. We have to go deep into those issues and make them better for all this county’s health and welfare.”
Reisig: “I’ll close with this. There’s only one candidate that’s experienced as a prosecutor and that’s me. It’s one of the reasons why my colleagues, the elected DAs from San Diego to Santa Barbara, all the way to Modoc and Shasta, and almost everywhere in between through the California DA’s association have elected me the president of the statewide association. This is a group that represents people on all sides of the aisle, but they elected me president this year because they trust me. I have a record of innovation and performance that, um, you know, garnered their respect,” Reisig said. “So for anybody to criticize where we have gone with that misses the point, we’re first. I’m running again because I’m still passionate about our community and public safety and the partnerships that I’ve developed. That’s why I’m so proud to have such a broad base of support from farmers to school teachers, cops, educators, and everyone in between. It’s bipartisan, it’s across the board. I’m just humbled, frankly, by the amount of support I’ve had from all over the county. I’m hoping that voters will see that I am the only choice for DA.”