FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephanie Gomory, Communications Director, [email protected]
MONTPELIER, Vt.—With Vermont’s elected prosecutors on the ballot statewide in 2022 and several incumbents facing challengers or vacating their seats, the ACLU is launching the “Your Vote, Your Prosecutor” campaign – to inform voters about the powerful, yet often unseen role of state’s attorneys in Vermont’s criminal legal system, and the impacts of their decisions in the lives of countless Vermonters.
While state’s attorney races do not attract the same level of attention as other local and statewide races, the outcomes have far-reaching consequences for local communities. That may be especially true this year, as Vermont’s recent progress in criminal law reform and demands for police accountability now face a backlash from defenders of the status quo.
ACLU of Vermont General Counsel Jay Diaz: “When it comes to criminal justice, there is no public official who has more power and is harder to hold accountable than elected prosecutors. Given state’s attorneys’ enormous influence shaping outcomes in our communities – either through effective, smarter justice policies or by relying on failed, ‘tough on crime’ approaches – we wanted to help provide Vermont voters with the tools they need to make informed decisions on election day.”
For “Your Vote, Your Prosecutor,” the ACLU has created and posted online profiles of each of Vermont’s sitting state’s attorneys. The profiles include each state’s attorney’s written policies, to the extent they exist, contact information, and links to learn more, with additional material soon to be added. The campaign page also includes interactive features for Vermonters to learn about Smart Justice reforms prosecutors can adopt, play “state’s attorney for a day,” and share their experiences with Vermont’s criminal legal system.
As candidates are announced, the ACLU will be seeking to highlight their approach to criminal law reform, police accountability, and racial justice, to give voters a clearer picture of each candidate’s views on these key issues.
While Vermonters strongly support criminal justice reform, many are unaware of the crucial role state’s attorneys play in shaping Vermont’s criminal legal system. In Vermont as in the rest of the country, the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains. As a result, prosecutors often hold more power than a judge in deciding who goes to prison and for how long. State’s attorneys are also a strong presence in Vermont’s legislature, whether it’s by supporting new criminal laws, harsher punishments, and less transparency, or instead advancing smarter, fairer criminal justice policies.
Recent analysis has shown extreme racial disparities in Vermont drug prosecutions, underscoring the impact of state’s attorneys’ policies and practices, and the need for more transparency and accountability.
ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Lyall: “Vermonters want a smarter, fairer system of justice, and an essential part of that is ensuring prosecutors are accountable to their constituents. Every day, state’s attorneys make life-altering decisions directly impacting our communities and Vermont voters need to know whether or not those decisions reflect their values.”
“Your Vote, Your Prosecutor” is part of the ACLU’s Smart Justice Vermont campaign, launched in 2018 with the twin goals of reducing the number of people incarcerated by half and challenging systemic racism in Vermont’s criminal legal system. In four years, following the adoption of numerous policy reforms championed by the ACLU, Vermont’s prison population has already been reduced by forty percent from its peak fifteen years ago. In addition, recently passed legislation, H. 546, will create a bureau of racial justice statistics to help address persistent racial disparities – including in state prosecutions – a longtime ACLU priority.
The primaries for Vermont’s state’s attorney races will be held on August 9th, 2022, and the general election is November 8th, 2022.