Will Furse, a defense attorney challenging incumbent 22nd Judicial District Attorney Russell Wasley in this yearsprimary, had the following responses to community-based questions about the position.
What do you consider the most serious criminal issues in Montezuma County and how would you address them?
Furse pointed to repeat crimes and recidivism rates in the county as the largest criminal problems in the county, but he tied those issues to the larger concern of drug use in the region.
Ive been here working in this community for the last seven years, and I can tell you that Ive seen offenders repeat their actions over and over and over again, Furse said. Those offenders that make those same mistakes are usually addicts, and generally speaking, are addicts of methamphetamine. If I had to use one word to describe our most significant criminal issue in this town, it would be methamphetamines.
According to the candidate, legal offenders who are also drug addicts are more likely to become repeat offenders and less likely to find success in a traditional probational structure. A comprehensive strategy must be employed to reduce recidivism rates through confronting the meth problem, Furse said.
I believe we address (meth) through a very deliberate sentencing strategy that incorporates rehabilitation for those who are purely addicts and community safety through prison sentences for those who are distributors and those who commit violent crimes, he said. I believe that when you address methamphetamines and addiction, you are also addressing property crime and more violent crime.
What are the most important qualifications for being the DA in the 22nd Judicial District?
Wisdom and an understanding of the power the office possesses are necessary qualities for a successful district attorney, according to Furse. The office brings with it responsibilities that require careful thought and a mature sense of judgement, he said.
Deciding who to prosecute and who to go after and whose liberty you ought threaten is a grave responsibility, Furse said. You need to know what you should do, not just what the law allows or what you can do. You must use that discretion and wisdom to further justice.
Courtroom abilities are also key for the prosecution of offenders, Furse said. District attorneys must be able to command attention and respect in the courtroom, from the judge and jury to their professional colleagues.
In addition to solid courtroom skills and good wisdom and judgement, Furse said a DA must have innate leadership skills in order to manage the office and provide direction for staff and the community.
The DAs responsibilities go beyond the courtroom, he said. They are an administrator, and they are a leader in the office that ought to promote teamwork and partnership with other community organizations, law enforcement and other offices.
Not all personalities that might be good in the courtroom or good lawyers lend themselves to that of a leader, and I think it is important that our DA be a leader. I believe I offer that quality as a DA candidate.
What is your position on plea bargains and restorative justice?
Furse recognizes plea bargains as a necessary evil in the justice system, but he believes they are a tool which should not be expected by defendants or leveraged as a reward for finding oneself in the legal system.
I think that a plea bargain strategy ought to be one of deterrence, he said. A DA ought to recognize not every offender is worthy of a plea bargain and those who are not worthy ought not get one. All too often we have prosecutors who have thrown their arms up in defeat and said every offender needs to have a plea bargain.
Excluded from plea bargain consideration should be any offender who falls in the categories of specific violent crimes or habitual recidivism, according to Furse.
We ought to have a system of deterrence where the public watches the consequences of someone who commits these violent and repeated acts, he said. I think when that happens, the community is able to learn about the criminal justice system and offenders will fear the consequences of their actions.
In terms of restorative justice, Furse believes a greater emphasis on rehabilitation should be a hallmark of the community.
Restorative justice is something I think we need to adopt more of in this community, Furse said. We have a large amount of community resources and groups dedicated to a common goal of criminal prevention and when you use restorative justice, you are allowing the community to take a greater role in the criminal justice system.
Community involvement is key to restorative justice, Furse said, and it is the role of the district attorney to help pull programs together for the betterment of the community.
How do you plan to interact with the community, both in terms of crime prevention efforts and outreach?
A focus on crime prevention should be a key component of any district attorneys office, Furse said, and it is something he believes is lacking in the current administration.
I believe that in order to effectively prevent crime, a DA needs to have an open-door policy with the community, he said. We have many wonderful nonprofits in town both government and private organizations that are working toward a common goal of preventing crime.
Crime prevention takes many forms, and it can be as simple as job training and other opportunities for personal growth, Furse said.
When you empower a victim of crime through vocation or educational opportunities, you are preventing crime, he said. When you give drug rehabilitation to an offender, I believe you are preventing crime. And when a DA incorporates the services and opportunities provided by the community at large, that prosecutor is then involved in crime prevention.
Audio files of KSJDs interviews with the candidates for Montezuma County commissioner and the 22 Judicial District are available at www.ksjd.org.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected].