Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief
The Race to Reform the District Attorney’s Office
In these historic times, there are many things that are happening that’s shifting the cultural landscape and conversations about justice, equity, and fairness. New Orleans, while a jewel of a City in many ways is ground zero for a Criminal Justice System that’s rife with archaic, inhuman practices, that makes it the most incarcerated City in the nation, jailing people at twice the national average.
The recent race for District Attorney brought these issues front and center, with both candidates pledging to reform the office and balancing the needs for public safety along with equity for all regardless of race, class, or gender.
Jason Williams Makes History; Becoming only the Second African American District Attorney of New Orleans
When all the votes were counted, Jason Williams defeated Keva Landrum and is now tasked with the job of making the public confident that the District Attorney’s Office can deliver on the promises of reform.
Speaking of the failures of the present Criminal Justice System and his agenda he says, “It has denied justice for too many in our community, especially Black men, and has not made our families safer. I will lead an office that rejects a win-at-all-cost culture and replaces that with a culture that is laser-focused on decreasing violent crime like murder, rape, and armed robberies. I will lead an office that prioritizes community engagement and transparency to rebuild public trust and partnership.”
The Search for Justice, Equity and Fairness…All Voices Matter
Many of the problems with the system lies in that there are not enough diversity in the voices that are in the room when making decisions around policies relating to public safety and the measuring their impact on the City and its residents. Consequently, this practice produces adverse results, with leading to over-policing, persecuting, and prosecuting some communities while others are being protected and served.
Williams, who says during the campaign and in his work on reform efforts are shaped by his many years of being involved in these efforts will help him bring a diverse pool of people to the table to come up with solutions.
“This campaign was a community driven effort. It was going to be a community effort reflective of the diversity of experiences, the diversity of thought, the diversity of complexion, the diversity of gender in the City of New Orleans. And that same diversity of thought and inclusion more broadly is what we will use in this fight to reform the Criminal Legal System. This new era of criminal justice will look different than it ever did to increase public safety in every neighborhood,” Williams said during his victory speech surrounded by his supporters.
What’s Needed to Lead through Turbulent Times
In the outgoing administration of the District Attorney’s office there is a perception problem on several fronts. Williams says his varied portfolio of experience makes him armed with the skill sets to restore public confidence that the office needs. Further he states that under his charge, the D.A. Office will operate with integrity and transparency producing better results for the people of New Orleans.
“As City Council President and Criminal Justice Committee Chair, I developed public dashboards to increase information sharing and transparency with the public. I will do the exact same thing as DA so that the public has the information needed to hold me accountable. I also developed the Jerome Smith Criminal Justice Citizen Advisory Council to allow citizens to help set priorities in criminal justice and law enforcement budget priorities. As District Attorney, I will establish a Citizen Advisory Board of Advocates and victims to help ensure we are hearing of the needs, responsive, and rebuild trust.”
David vs. Goliath…The Politics of New Orleans
D.A. Elect Williams during his victory speech at times sounding prophetic speaking of those who’d been wrongly accused and later exonerated. Then likening himself to winning this election as a David vs. Goliath moment, as he saw much of the political establishment back his opponent. Not deterred, he took his case to the people. Feeling vindicated, he said to rousing applauds and shouts of amen to his supporters spanning the gamut of people citizens of the City he said, “When you put God first all things are possible if you put God and a slingshot you can take that giant out. We put people first, we listened to the people of New Orleans and not political machines.”
It is in this spirit of all voices contributing to the conversation that shapes this reform effort that Williams says will guide him as the next District Attorney of New Orleans.
“I believe in New Orleans we can create a blueprint that can be used throughout the south and the country. To accomplish this, it will take everybody in this City to implement and execute reforming this Criminal Legal System; and make the most incarcerated City in the world the fairest, most humane and with have justice and safety for all regardless of what part of town you are from.”
A Positive Vision to Becoming a Better and Safer City
With his victory, Jason Williams is making history; becoming only the second African American District Attorney in the City’s over a 300 year history is optimistic about the potential direction of his office and the Criminal Justice System as a whole something that will benefit all the people of the City and improve the quality of life for all its citizens.
“It is now with the future of New Orleans in my mind that I must pledge to you as your next District Attorney that I will be one that you can be proud of.