Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Month: October 2021

Stop Mass Incarceration

October 22 Is National Stop Mass Incarceration Day - Dorsey Nunn & Pamela Price for Alameda County DA
October 22 Is National Stop Mass Incarceration Day

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet nearly 25 percent of its prisoners.

Unfortunately, California is still a world leader in mass incarceration. When prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile jail facilities are all accounted for, California has an incarceration rate of 549 per 100,000 people. To be clear, California imprisons a higher percentage of its people than nearly every other democratically lead country on Earth.

The Brennan Center for Justice stated, “Mass incarceration rips apart families and communities, disproportionately hurts people of color, and costs taxpayers $260 billion a year.” 

During my campaign in 2018 my plans to end mass incarceration were twisted and turned into false narratives that I was going to stop prosecuting ALL misdemeanors. What I said, and STILL say is that we need to reduce misdemeanor prosecutions that criminalize poverty, substance use, addiction and mental illness, as well as those based on pretextual racially-biased stops. A 2-year study by the ACLU of Northern California and the Urban Peace Movement, over six in 10 of all charges the Alameda County DA brought against adults were low-level offenses that either should have been directed to diversion programs or not charged at all. Prosecuting these low-level cases actually undermines public safety.

In fact, research out of the National Bureau of Economic Research found that not prosecuting people for these types of misdemeanors significantly reduced the probability of future involvement with the justice system and led to greater public safety.

Dorsey Nunn is Working to Stop Mass Incarceration

Dorsey Nunn, a leading expert with over 40 years of professional experience in criminal justice reform. I am so proud to say that Dorsey is a supporter and has endorsed me and my platform to stop mass incarceration.

Dorsey is Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and Co-Founder of All of Us or None. His storied career in justice reform has been key in many of the reforms we have seen in California. His work has led to policy victories including numerous “Ban the Box” laws passed at the local, state, and federal levels, the end of shackling of pregnant women, and the biggest drug sentencing reform passed by the California legislature in recent history (SB 180).

Dorsey Nunn, Co-Founder of All of Us or None, endorses Pamela Price for Alameda County District Attorney
Dorsey Nunn, Co-Founder of All of Us or None

“Pamela Price has been pushing for reforms for decades and having her at the helm of the DA’s office would lead to important changes in prosecutions that would lead to not only safer communities but dismantle the system that profits and benefits from placing black and brown bodies behind bars,” said Nunn. “Pamela’s well-researched and compassionate plan to stop prosecuting misdemeanors that criminalize poverty, mental illness and substance abuse will bolster public safety.”

Mass incarceration rips apart families and communities, disproportionately hurts people of color, and costs taxpayers $260 billion a year.
Mass Incarceration Devastates Communities

Mass Incarceration Devastates Communities

Mass incarceration devastates entire communities. It disproportionately worsens health and economic inequality in communities of color in the US. The same amount of money used to prosecute low-level, non-violent misdemeanors could be used to strengthen reentry programs. We can increase job training programs and create greater housing options for those who are families or victims of crimes or those who find themselves in the criminal justice system.

So much is at stake in the June 2022 primary for DA. As we look to the end of DA O’Malley’s tenure, it is vitally important we take an honest look at the culture in the DA’s office that fed mass incarceration. I am running for District Attorney as a panacea to the heavily entrenched and dogmatic mindset of a DA’s office that saw residents, (particularly people of color), as a statistic. To truly value human life and end the blight on California’s reputation as the leader in mass incarceration, we must uproot those who perpetuated unethical practices for personal and monetary gain.

Meaningful reforms to ending mass incarceration will not progress by maintaining the status quo in the DA’s office. In fact, the incumbent has actively been fighting key criminal justice reforms that benefited community safety of the last decade. Instead we need meaningful leadership that sides with data, research and compassion for the people she serves. #NationalStopMassIncarcerationDay  #AlamedaDA22 #JusticewithCompassion #JusticeDoneRight #NoMoreDoubleStandard #StepForward2022

A Double Survivor

October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Pamela Price will be the first domestic violence survivor elected to serve as Alameda County District Attorney
October Is Domestic VIolence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (#WeAreResilient) Gabby Petito’s disappearance, search and painful death has captured the national spotlight. Domestic violence cuts across all cultural, economic, racial and gender divisions. One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner.

The body cam footage of the police response to a report of domestic violence involving Gabby was very revealing. Instead of approaching Gabby as a victim of domestic violence, the police threatened her with jail time. She went from victim to criminal in an instant. Their rush to dismiss her as a victim of domestic violence and criminalize her apparently cost Gabby her life. I too understand how surviving domestic violence can be criminalized because I am what I call “a double survivor.”

A Double Survivor

In 1981, I found myself in an abusive relationship with the father of my only child. My baby was only 2 months old when our situation imploded. I was living alone with our child, and the father kept threatening me and my baby. Often he showed up unannounced at the Albany Village where I lived. Despite my multiple calls to the police, he kept showing up. They never arrested him. He broke into my house; they cited and released him. On August 20, 1981, when he showed up and threatened me, I called the police again. This time, the police decided to give my 2 month-old still nursing baby to her father and let him take her away. When I objected, I was arrested in my own home for “fighting in public” and interfering with a police officer or “resisting arrest.”

I was fortunate because I knew lawyers who supported me on my journey. My boss defended me “pro bono.” When I refused to “take a deal”, I went to trial and was acquitted by the jury. It was a frightening and humiliating experience. I survived both the domestic violence in my home and the overzealous Alameda County prosecutors who wanted to destroy my life. Obviously I was a Black woman who did not know her place. I am a double survivor.

A Lens of Life Experience

That experience certainly informs and shapes the lens through which I view domestic violence and the administration of justice in this kind of case. When I am elected in June 2022, I will be the first domestic violence survivor to ever serve as Alameda County District Attorney. As a survivor of domestic violence, I am deeply aware of and sensitive to the needs of survivors. I take these issues very seriously. When dealing with such cases, I will always prioritize the safety, needs, and desires of survivors (and children, if they are involved) and seek long term solutions that will keep families and communities safe.

I am fully committed to addressing violence in our community, including the literally hundreds of crimes labeled as “domestic violence.” Intimate violence cases that result in bodily harm or injury, which include elder abuse, family violence and intimate partner violence, will be prosecuted as appropriate. I will use the full force of the law and the resources of the DA’s office to protect everyone subjected to intimate partner violence, and hold those who engage in unlawful acts of violence and intimidation accountable to their loved ones and the community.

In New York City and other jurisdictions, practitioners, courts, district attorneys and advocates have developed a comprehensive approach for abusive partner intervention. They provide services for people who cause harm as a central part of their work to support survivors, foster healthy relationships and communities, and end violence. We know that “hurt people hurt people.” A restorative justice approach may be more effective in holding offenders accountable while increasing survivor satisfaction and keeping communities safer. This approach is what we hope to bring to Alameda County.

A New Vision for Justice

Alameda County also needs to prioritize spending to protect survivors and not treat them like criminals. I recognize that a woman has a right to defend herself and her children. We need to completely re-focus peace officers in their response to survivors and witnesses of violence in our community. We need to address gang and gun violence and their role in domestic violence in our communities. I will work with the Court and our public health services and other stakeholders to establish a specialized domestic violence court that uses a holistic strategy to both address and prevent domestic violence. We must be vigilant to not make anyone else “a double survivor” of our criminal justice system.

Since COVID-19, violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified. COVID-19 has forced survivors of domestic violence to choose between staying with an abuser or living on the streets. In Alameda County, 26% of homeless families with children said domestic violence was the primary reason they lost their housing. And during this pandemic, there has been a wide-spread shortage of beds in homes and shelters. Oakland’s Serenity House provides housing and services for women fleeing domestic violence. Its Director reports a six-fold increase since COVID-19.

Meanwhile, despite the glare of the media attention for Gabby, thousands of “missing” women and girls of color go without media attention. In 2019, a staggering 5,590 Native American women were reported missing. And instead of actually covering these missing cases – the conversation has shifted to the inequity of media coverage. That is an important point to make. Still we cannot lost sight of the fundamental problem: too many women are subjected to violence in the world. Black, Brown and indigenous women are especially vulnerable to being criminalized if they try to protect themselves or their children. Women are too often not believed, or not “deemed worthy” of time or services.

“It’s a long time coming” – 40 years for me – but change is coming to Alameda County.

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