I am happy to announce that I am running for re-election as the Cumberland County District Attorney in 2022. When I decided to run for Cumberland County District Attorney in 2018, I did so with a mission to affect positive and practical change to our criminal justice system. My previous prosecutorial experience exposed me to some of society’s most serious challenges: substance use disorder and the opioid epidemic; mental health issues; domestic violence; elder and child abuse; and human trafficking. Three years into my tenure as District Attorney, I see real progress on these fronts, because we have tackled them together. At the same time, I know we all need to do more and I want to continue this work as your District Attorney.
After reflecting upon my own values and considering the mission of our office, and at the urging of several of my fellow District Attorneys in Maine, I made the decision several months ago to enroll in the Democratic Party. Although the work of the District Attorney’s Office should always be apolitical (which is why I ran as an independent three years ago), my values and my hope for the future of this office reflect Democratic values, including the pursuit of much-needed criminal justice reform, which we must all work toward together.
Meaningful criminal justice reform includes cash bail reform and decarceration, but it also includes preventive measures to help people avoid the criminal justice system. When I became the District Attorney, I immediately began to try to break down walls between resources and the people who need them. I was eager to address mental health issues and prevent the onset of substance use disorder side-by-side with community leaders. Together, our coalition communicated the strong link between adverse or traumatic childhood experiences and initial entry into the legal system as part of a multi-faceted examination of criminal justice reform. Some of my first actions as District Attorney included implementation of new programs to tackle these issues and focus on helping victims, reduce defendant recidivism, and increase diversion from the criminal justice system. I believe wellness and access to are the pillars we need to build a safer county, so I created a restorative justice diversion program in Cumberland County, a Veterans Treatment Court to accompany our long-established Drug Treatment Court, and the Cumberland County Coalition on Substance Use Prevention (CCCSUP) — a networking group for community groups and treatment providers who combat substance use disorder. I continue the necessary work to improve access to mental health services for defendants through the Cumberland County Mental Health Languishing Committee and working with NAMI Maine, while also working with housing advocates, like Community Housing of Maine (CHOM), to help connect people experiencing homelessness with safe housing. I have also done extensive work with the recovery community to assist in reducing stigma, making connections with the Portland and Lake Region Recovery Community Centers, treatment providers and recovery residences, such as Milestone, Pine Tree Recovery, Grace House, Liberty Bay, Courage House, Amistad, Foundation House, and the Maine Association of Recovery Residences (MARR), and being a close community partner to advocate for them and help educate our community through work with groups like SoPo Unite, Casco Bay CAN, Be The Influence, Westbrook Partners for Prevention, and Lake Region Collective Action Network. At the state level, I have worked closely with Governor Mills’ Office on Opioid Response as a member of the Prevention and Recovery Cabinet and member of the Overdose Review Panel.
Domestic violence is a predecessor for half of all homicides in Maine, and that is why I added a domestic violence prosecutor and victim witness advocate to my office. By shifting the focus on certain offenses, we can provide better outcomes for victims and the community as a whole. Since becoming District Attorney, I have strengthened the relationship between my office and domestic violence advocacy groups like Through These Doors and the Violence Intervention Partnership.
Prosecutors do not make the laws. Despite that, we can provide a very important role in legislative efforts to adopt practical reforms, which can help many people involved in the criminal justice system. As an effort to help make legislative changes, I worked closely with State Representative and State Senators from Cumberland County and helped draft legislation regarding sex trafficking, mental health issues, protections for vulnerable road users, and reforms of the cash bail system. I have also served on legislative committees who have addressed mental health and criminal records review.
In 2020, the District Attorney’s Office helped decrease the pre-trial population of the Cumberland County jail by approximately 30% and new criminal filings of cases in Cumberland County are down approximately 22% in the last two years demonstrating a change in the practices of the past. At the same time, Cumberland County remains a very safe place to live with a very low crime rate as well. I am committed to trying to get people into treatment and recovery as opposed to being incarcerated where possible without compromising public safety. Addressing root causes that lead to contacts with the criminal justice system as well as reducing recidivism are both methods of crime prevention.
I am proud of the prosecutors and staff that make up the District Attorney’s Office and the work they do for our community every day. You can be proud that these compassionate and professional women and men are helping keep us safe and helping to serve chronically marginalized members of our community. We spearheaded racial equity training for state prosecutors with “Mindbridge” to examine implicit bias, anti-racism, and data collection within the District Attorney’s office. This year, we assembled a series of training sessions for prosecutors to learn about the long-term implications of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) with Survivors Speak USA, Maine Behavioral Health, the United Way of Southern Maine, and the Maine Resiliency Network. This education is so important to our work since over 70% of individuals in the criminal justice system have an ACE score of four or higher. These actions are only possible thanks to the support of my office, community partners, and law enforcement, who share the same vision of a safer, healthier Cumberland County.
We have more work to do to realize our goals, and we can get there together with continued communication, coordination and cooperation. I hope that you will support me in my re-election for Cumberland County District Attorney so that we can continue to move our community forward.