The writer is the Wayne County prosecutor, running for a fifth term. For election coverage fairness, we publish her column in response to a Deadline Detroit campaign profile of Victoria Burton-Harris, her Aug 4 primary opponent.
By Kym Worthy
As Wayne County grapples with economic, health and moral crises, it's clear now more than ever that we need a proven leader to help see us through. That certainly includes the area of law and peace. Because our Prosecutor’s Office has always had to be very cost-conscious and effective with limited resources—even as we addressed a backlog of 11,341 untested rape kits and appropriately diverted more than 18,000 youths and adults from the system—I am ready to take on the tough tasks ahead.
During the last few months in the Covid-19 era, my office has worked with judges, law enforcement and jail officials to reduce the Wayne County Jail population by 41 percent. Our Conviction Integrity Unit continues to review wrongful conviction claims, work that has resulted in 20 exonerations. The next step is ensuring that those individuals get the support they need when they are released, including access to education and employment. I’m also proud of the work we’ve done on juvenile lifer reviews, which has resulted in 61 individuals being released from prison.
The death of George Floyd and the resulting protests have made clear something our office has been well aware of — that our system needs better scrutiny and accountability. We’ve been on this job with our Public Integrity Unit, which has held elected officials and law enforcement accountable, leading to the charging of 70 police officers. I join others in calling again for both a state and national database of police officers with histories of misconduct and creation of a prosecutorial dashboard that will create better transparency.
Meanwhile, our ongoing work to bring justice to victims continues through special elder abuse, immigration and LGBTQ units. We also support specialty courts for veterans and those with mental health and substance abuse challenges.
As a former judge, I recognize that we must consider all factors when making decisions while finding ways to make our system more equitable and accessible. We plan to enhance access to justice by creating a Community Court, a program for restorative justice, and 24-hour warrant review. I’m also in support of having no cash bail for civil infractions, ordinance violations, traffic offenses (excluding drunk driving) and non-assaultive misdemeanors.
Wayne County, with a potential $180-million budget deficit, will need the leadership that comes from experience and innovation to guide it through these tough times. It will require collaboration to find resources. The fact that more than 100 individuals and organizations have endorsed my candidacy means we will have the allies and relationships to get things done. We have also successfully gone after $12 million in grant funding and we will aim at more.
Leadership means being willing to evaluate as needed, and to make difficult decisions concerning controversial issues. I have always been willing to be held accountable, and I have been transparent by hosting town halls across the county, citizen academies and visits to service organizations. My record, I hope, will earn your vote Aug. 4.