By Jordana Rosenfeld
PITTSBURGH– Allegheny County’s chief public protector desires to change sides. Matt Dugan, who has actually invested the bulk of his profession climbing up the ranks in the county’s public defense workplace, has actually stated he’ll challenge District Lawyer Stephen Zappala in this spring’s Democratic primary.
Dugan, 43, of Moon Municipality, informed Pittsburgh City Paper recently that he desires to remain in the district lawyer’s workplace since it is finest placed to affect the instructions of the county’s criminal legal system.
” The system is not developed to be run by the public protector’s workplace,” Dugan stated. “The chief police officer in this county is the district lawyer’s workplace, and they have enormous discretion to shape policy and move the system forward.”
And after more than twenty years of Zappala incumbency, Dugan stated it’s time for somebody brand-new.
” In 2023, Allegheny County’s justice system needs modification. We require to believe in a different way,” he stated.
In specific, Dugan stated he desires to focus the county’s resources on “properly prosecuting violent criminal activity,” and he prepares to do so, in part, by executing “real diversion” programs that reroute those with low-level, nonviolent charges far from the criminal legal system.
According to Dugan, people charged with low-level and nonviolent offenses make up “the large, large bulk of the cases that we see and individuals we see in the criminal justice system … And I believe we have a genuine chance to believe in a different way about how we prosecute those cases and why we’re prosecuting those cases.”
Although Zappala has promoted the facility of specialized courts for cases including drugs, psychological health, and veterans as effective efforts to divert individuals from the criminal legal system, Dugan states these do not amount to “real diversion.”
” It takes a specific level of transgressor, suggesting you have to have actually gone through the system several times and stopped working several times prior to you’re even qualified to be thought about for these programs,” Dugan stated. “We understand treatment courts work. When individuals get these services, they are less most likely to recidivate. We simply require to do this earlier at the same time … there’s a chance to get in front of this, to be more proactive, to focus more on avoidance than to be reactive and concentrate on penalty.”
Rather, Dugan stated he imagines cooperation in between the DA’s workplace, regional and state leaders, and social provider to “end [low-level] matters without the long-lasting effect of criminal conviction. Our criminal legal system was not developed to address compound usage condition or mental disorder, he states, calling those as 2 of the significant factors individuals go into the criminal legal system in the very first location.”
Zappala has actually revealed less optimism about taking on the roots of criminal activity throughout media interviews.
” Criminal activity has a direct connection to hardship,” Zappala informed the Post-Gazette in 2019. “I’m not in charge of transport, safe and good real estate, or education. I’m on the back end of federal government.”
Dugan stated he has a various understanding of the district lawyer’s function.
” I do see a location for the district lawyer to believe more about criminal activity avoidance and to resolve the concerns that are truly driving individuals into the criminal justice system in the very first location,” he stated.
Dugan thinks that effectively diverting more low-level cases out of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas would lead to a range of favorable results.
Real diversion would maximize assistant district lawyers to concentrate on more severe cases and assist the county bring in and maintain gifted legal representatives, he stated.
” We see a substantial quantity of turnover in [the DA’s] workplace, which leads to more youthful, lower knowledgeable lawyers dealing with a few of these significant cases, and we have actually seen that that hasn’t exercised well over the previous number of years,” he stated.
In Addition, Dugan argues, if the county’s legal system moved quicker and more effectively, that would minimize the county prison population and the typical length of remain at the prison, conserving cash for taxpayers. “Forty 2 cents of every dollar folks invest in their Allegheny County taxes goes to support this criminal justice system,” he stated.
Dugan likewise stated he’s dedicated to resolving the well-documented racial variations in the county’s legal system.
” Every policy that we have, every regulation we have in the district lawyer’s workplace, every brand-new effort will constantly be taken a look at through the lens of how does this effect racial variation in the system?” he asked.
After taking workplace in 1999, Zappala ran unopposed up until 2019, where he beat 2 progressive oppositions. Although those oppositions, Turahn Jenkins and Lisa Intermediary, revealed strong assistance within city lines, Zappala controlled the residential areas
A previous member of Moon Municipality’s school board, Dugan informed City Paper he’s positive he can appeal to rural citizens.
” I reside in the residential areas. I talk to folks about the concerns that exist in the residential areas, and while they’re various, possibly, than the concerns that the city deals with, there are still substantial concerns, right? I imply, psychological health, drug abuse, instability, those things do not discriminate,” he stated. “Those are concerns that exist both in the city and the residential areas. And I have actually had discussions with folks well outside the city limitations in Allegheny County, who are simply as stressed over the criminal justice system as folks in the city.”
Jordana Rosenfeld is a press reporter for Pittsburgh City Paper. where this story initially appeared