Gary Tyack believes in an holistic approach to justice. The Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney should be focused on seeking justice for victims of crime, while ensuring it is done in a fair way that respects the legal rights of all members of the community and strengthens public safety.
We have seen an increase in violence amongst our young people. We need more diversion programs across the board, but especially for our youth. Gary wants to create a diversion program designed for our youth with a focus on ending the school-to-prison pipeline. Instead of being incarcerated, youth would be evaluated for trauma, stress, and other health needs. Upon completion of their evaluation, they would be given plans that would include school support, tutoring, mentoring, and therapy. We’ve seen this diversion program model succeed in Washington D.C., in which 90% of youth who participated were not re-arrested.
Economic status should not play a role in justice. Our bail system harms lower income offenders and keeps them incarcerated for longer periods of time than people with means who are accused of committing the same crime. This increases the financial burden on taxpayers due to the cost of incarceration for people without the means to make bail. Making sure bail for low-level, non-violent offenders is equitable and reasonable will not only ease the burden on our overcrowded jails, but will also save taxpayer dollars.
Decriminalize mental illness.
People with mental illnesses are frequently incarcerated more often than necessary. Those who are mentally ill often have fewer resources to meet basic needs, and typically do not have the money for bail. Gary wants to train prosecutors to understand the effects of mental illness to ensure proper measures are taken to encourage treatment in lieu of incarceration, where appropriate, and to create a community-based crisis stabilization center. Additionally, he wants to have a social worker on staff at arraignment hearings to help those suffering from mental health issues navigate the process. For those who are incarcerated, he wants to see that they are provided with appropriate mental health services upon their release so they receive the treatment they need.
Expand drug courts.
Although Franklin County has a drug court, it needs to be expanded so that it can process more cases and ensure that we are giving people the option to seek treatment instead of ending up with a criminal record. Gary wants to ensure the drug courts are properly staffed and funded to achieve the best success rates possible.
Those suffering from addiction should not fear prosecution if they call for medical aid. The friends and family of those suffering from addiction similarly should not fear their loved one will be prosecuted should they have to call for help. In lieu of criminalizing addiction, Gary will advocate for treatment.
Expunge past convictions that would not be prosecuted today.
The laws have changed over the years, and it is time our criminal justice system retroactively works with those who have been convicted of non-violent, low-level drug offenses in the past so they can move forward to a brighter future with fewer obstacles. For example, if someone was charged with a felony 15 years ago for marijuana possession, but they would not receive the same charge today, that part of their record should be expunged.
Set up our youth for success.
Many of the young people in our most vulnerable communities have experienced multiple forms of trauma. In lieu of seeking prosecution or incarceration for fist fights, marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, or other similar low-level offenses, Gary believes that utilizing diversion programs will help get young people on a path for a brighter future and a productive adulthood. In addition to having social workers on hand who are trained in juvenile psychology, he will also ensure their trauma is taken into account when considering charges, plea bargains, and sentencing, as well as make sure the records of juveniles are kept confidential.
Proactively address racial disparities.
Gary is committed to addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system by promoting greater cooperation amongst all involved parties and ensuring recurring implicit bias training is conducted within the office. Metrics such as gender identity and race will be tracked against data such as charging decisions, plea bargains, sentencing recommendations, and bail requests. This also means ensuring the demographics of the staff at the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office reflect the demographics of our community.
Leave the death penalty for only the most extreme situations.
Death penalty cases make for lots of headlines, especially after a particularly brutal crime, but these cases drag on for years — sometimes decades — re-traumatizing families of the victims at every twist and turn, and costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some offenders, once convicted, no doubt must be permanently incarcerated. Gary believes cases will be resolved with more certainty, and in a more expeditious manner, without the death penalty being a first choice. He will always personally decide what should be submitted to the grand jury in murder cases, and which, if any, indictments should include the death penalty as an option.
Weigh the costs of incarceration.
Incarceration costs have dramatically increased over the years. Gary wants to consider the costs of incarceration on taxpayers when it comes to non-violent, low-level offenders. Tax dollars saved through this plan would be re-invested in crime prevention in order to keep our communities safe, and also to provide more social services to enhance public safety.