Candidate’s name: Arnie Gottlieb
Campaign mailing address, email & phone:
P.O. Box 531
Dorset, VT 05251
CRIMINAL JUSTICE PERSPECTIVE AND PRIORITIES
1. Do you believe that Vermont should reduce its current incarceration rate? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and describe what role, if any, State’s Attorneys play in determining how many people are incarcerated or under some form of criminal justice supervision in this state?
Yes. I believe Vermont should reduce its current incarceration rate. The State’s Attorney has the discretion to make recommendations on the issues of bail, to refer defendants to alternative forms of sentencing, and to recommend deferred prison sentences, all of which would reduce Vermont’s rate of incarceration.
2. If elected, would you commit to implementing policies and practices that will reduce your county’s incarcerated population by a specific percentage by the end of your term? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation. If “Yes,” please identify your goal and what specific combination of reforms you anticipate will achieve this goal.
Yes. I would implement policies and practices to reduce the number of people that are incarcerated from Bennington County. According to the Vermont Department of Corrections, Bennington County has sent more people to prison per capita than any other county in each of the years since the Department began keeping statistics in 2009, and almost twice the state average. My goal would be to significantly reduce Bennington County’s rate by at least 50%. As mentioned in the previous answer, matters relating to bail, alternative sentencing, and deferred incarceration could be implemented in the short term. In the longer term, creation of a drug court would address those crimes that are committed by individuals with addiction issues. I view addiction as a medical issue, not a crime.
3. In past legislative sessions, Vermont’s Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs has opposed criminal justice reform measures in the legislature while supporting tougher criminal penalties. Will you commit to speaking out in support of legislation to reduce incarceration, even if it means taking positions that are counter to the Department’s? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. A majority of Americans believe that criminal justice reform is necessary and I am a firm supporter of that view. If the positions of Vermont’s Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs oppose contemporary criminal justice reform measures in favor of tougher criminal penalties, I will speak out against them. History shows that harsher penalties merely fill up prisons, many of which are out of state privately owned entities, but do nothing to make our communities safer.
FAIRNESS IN CHARGING, BAIL, PLEAS, AND SENTENCING
4. Do you support a policy to reduce the use of money bail as a condition of pretrial release to ensure that no one is incarcerated solely on the basis of their inability to pay? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. Money bail as a condition of pretrial release is often discriminatory towards the poor and the disadvantaged. The primary issues when considering releasing an individual prior to trial are whether the individual is a danger to the community and whether he/she will appear in court when required to do so. An economic test is inappropriate.
5. Would you commit to developing and implementing written guidelines for charging and plea bargain practices to ensure prosecutors do not overcharge or unfairly pressure defendants into pleas? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. Guidelines for charging defendants and entering into plea agreements are important. Initial charges should reflect only those that are provable without the piling on of additional charges that some State’s Attorneys include for the purpose of gaining leverage. Plea agreements should reflect the ability to prove the initially filed charge as well as a defendant’s prior criminal history.
6. Do you support increasing reliance on Vermont’s restorative justice system? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation and if you answer yes, please say what would you do to increase participation in that system for the benefit of victims and survivors as well as offenders.
Yes. I support the restorative justice program. Victims, survivors and offenders all need to be part of a collaborative process and feel that the criminal legal system has served their individual needs and concerns along with allowing for understanding, accountability and closure for all participants.
7. In assessing sentencing options, would you consider alternatives to the Field Supervision Unit (F.S.U.) form of post-release supervision that do more to reduce re-incarceration rates for technical violations? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. I am in favor of alternatives that reduce re-incarceration rates for technical violations. It is important that probation and parole officers have the ability to adequately monitor individuals on post-release supervision. There are times, however, that so many conditions are imposed that individuals are set up for failure. There must be a balance that protects the community but also allows for minor technical violations.
ADDRESSING RACISM IN VERMONT’S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
8. Do you believe prosecutorial practices contribute to racial disparities in Vermont’s criminal justice system, including disparities in charging decisions, bail recommendations, diversionary program placements, and plea bargains? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation, and if you answer yes, what if anything would you do to address those disparities?
Yes, prosecutorial practices can contribute to racial disparities in the criminal justice system. My review of cases brought to me by law enforcement officials will be color-blind and decisions regarding charging, bail, diversion referrals, and sentencing will be based solely on the facts of the particular case.
9. Will you commit to collecting and making publicly available relevant data and statistical information on bail and charging decisions, pleas, convictions, and placements in diversion programs, while accounting for race, gender, disability, and other characteristics? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation or other measures you would implement to promote transparency in your office.
Yes. I will make all data available for public review as it relates to race, gender, and disability. I will meet with staff members to create a system on how best to gather the relevant statistics.
10. Would you decline to file charges where evidence indicates that a police officer engaged in racial profiling or other racial bias? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. If evidence indicates that police officers engaged in illegal racial profiling or racial bias, I will decline to prosecute.
PUBLIC HEALTH APPROACHES TO ADDICTION
11. Do you support a public health-centered approach to substance use and addiction that emphasizes decriminalization and harm reduction, increases access to treatment, and does not involve prosecution for drug possession? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation, and if you answer yes, what specific strategies would you support, both inside and outside the criminal justice system, to implement that approach?
Yes. I support all approaches that encompass treatment alternatives in cases of substance abuse and addiction. I believe issues of substance abuse and addiction are medical issues, not criminal issues, and should be addressed accordingly. A public health centered approach that includes treatment and aftercare is the most effective way to address these issues. The exception to this would be major drug dealers who sell large quantities of illegal substances. In those cases traditional punishment through the court system is in order.
12. Do you know how many people prosecuted in your county are currently incarcerated postconviction for an offense in which addiction was the driving factor? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
No, I do not know how many people are currently incarcerated from Bennington County due to addiction related activities. When elected to office, I will attempt a review of those cases.
TREATMENT FOR PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
13. Would you commit to enacting policies to divert defendants with mental health issues away from the criminal justice system and into treatment and support services in the community? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. I will enact policies that divert defendants with mental health issues into treatment and support services. The law has always made allowances for not prosecuting or convicting individuals who have been deemed incompetent or insane. There are cases involving less severe levels of mental illness, however, that a State’s Attorney through its discretionary power can refer out for assessment and treatment that will best serve both the affected individual and the community as a whole.
14. Do you know how many people prosecuted in your county and currently in DOC custody have a mental health issue, including but not limited to a serious mental illness or other mental health condition? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
No, I do not know how many people in Bennington County are in DOC custody with mental health conditions. When elected to office I will attempt a review of those cases.
HOLDING LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCOUNTABLE
15. Would you commit to assigning special prosecutors authorized to investigate and prosecute officer-involved shootings and other use-of-force cases, and cases of police misconduct? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes, I believe that allegations of excessive use of force and officer-involved shootings should be referred to outside special prosecutors for review. It would be difficult for a State’s Attorney to judge an officer’s conduct and arrive at an unbiased opinion when they work together on a daily basis. Integrity of the process will help instill confidence and foster trust between law enforcement and the citizens of Bennington County.
16. Do you support a policy requiring a criminal conviction before forfeiting property, including for third parties’, and regular reporting on all civil assets seized by law enforcement, including how seized assets were spent or used? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. I believe that a criminal conviction is required before any forfeiture of seized property occurs. I am also in favor of seized property being used for a specific purpose rather than deposited into a general operating fund.
MINIMIZING COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF INCARCERATION
17. People with a criminal conviction can face long-term barriers to housing and employment among other collateral consequences as a result of having a criminal record. Would you commit to implementing policies to mitigate collateral consequences? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. People with criminal convictions are marginalized when it comes to employment, housing, loans, and service in the military. When a person is convicted of a crime that is not serious and constitutes a first offense, he/she should be made aware of the option of expungement or the sealing of the record.
18. Would you commit to requiring prosecutors to consider the potential collateral consequences to children and families in making prosecutorial decisions—especially the decision to seek a prison sentence for a parent or a minor—and to use their discretion to avoid adverse consequences for children and families whenever appropriate? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. I believe that an individual’s personal and family circumstances should always be relevant when determining the appropriateness of a prison sentence.
19. Would you commit to implementing guidelines for prosecutors to consider immigration related consequences of prosecutorial decisions and to use their discretion to avoid adverse immigration-related consequences for noncitizens whenever appropriate? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” and any explanation.
Yes. Except for the most serious offenses committed in our community, immigration related consequences should be considered when prosecutorial decisions are made.
20. Vermont's Fair and Impartial Policing Policy prevents law enforcement agencies from contacting federal immigration authorities except in limited circumstances, though under statute these policies do not extend to the State’s Attorneys’ offices. Will you commit to limiting communication between your office and federal immigration authorities to instances where your office is presented with a criminal warrant or subpoena?
Yes. Immigration issues are a matter of federal law and generally unrelated to the duties of the State’s Attorney. I will abide by all lawful warrants and subpoenas but will not, under any circumstances, comply with voluntary requests from or initiate contact with ICE or any other federal immigration agencies.