It's good to hear that diversion and treatment are being discussed on both sides of the aisle.
DA candidates meet in forumJuvenile-diversion programs popular
July 24, 2008| Herald Staff Writer
With less than a month until the Democratic primary, candidates for district attorney for the 6th Judicial District have been civil and largely in accord on most prosecutorial issues.
The two Democrats and one Republican vying for the job support giving first-time young offenders a second chance to stay out of jail. But their level of support and methods for doing so vary - slightly.
The candidates shared their views Wednesday at Durango City Hall during a one-hour candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of La Plata County. The 6th Judicial District includes Archuleta, San Juan and La Plata counties.
Democrat Todd Risberg expressed the strongest support for diversion programs such as drug court, DUI court, restorative justice and victim-offender mediation. Such programs are designed to keep low-level offenders out of jail and change an offender's behavior.
"What I want to do is use approaches that actually work to deal with the problems," Risberg said. "What we can't do is keep doing what we're doing - old-school traditional prosecution."
David Duncan, also a Democrat who supports diversion programs, said for mediation programs to work, both the victim and the offender must be willing to participate.
"What I believe we need to do is take a look at the programs you already have in place, enhance those programs and get more support for them and do everything you can to keep the juveniles out of the criminal-justice system," he said.
Russell Wasley, the sole Republican seeking the district attorney's position, said diversion programs in Archuleta County are under-funded, and he is committed to finding more resources to bolster them. Sending juveniles to detention centers is a last resort, he said.
"What we try to do with juveniles is find alternative-treatment methods and ways to educate the young person out of the behavior that got them into trouble in the first place," Wasley said.
Duncan and Risberg will face each other in the Democratic Party primary Aug. 12. The winner will take on Wasley in the November general election.
Risberg earned a spot on the ballot in March after Democratic Party delegates voted for him by a margin of more than two-to-one over Sarah Law, who served as district attorney from 1996 through 2004.
Duncan will appear on the Democratic ballot after collecting about 1,600 signatures.
District Attorney Craig Westberg, a Republican who faces charges of careless driving and driving under the influence of sleeping medication, is not seeking re-election.Other issues discussed at Wednesday's forum included the methamphetamine epidemic, term limits for judges and the death penalty.