Reforming cash bail and capital punishment: A look at the new Pima County Attorney’s policies

Updated: Jan. 4, 2021 at 10:52 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It was her first official day in the office for the new Pima County Attorney, Laura Conover.

Conover is the first elected prosecutor outside of the agency since 1972.

Conover released her new reforms and key policies, the first of which started Monday night.

A pre-trial release from the Pima County Jail will no longer depend on a person’s ability to pay but rather the threat they pose to community safety.

“We don’t want someone charged with very serious crime to turn around and pays the $50,000 bond and just walk right back out into our community,” said Conover. “Just like we don’t want someone who’s likely to even go to prison on a charge, to just be trapped in jail on a $500 bond $1,000 bond.”

Conover is also stepping away from capital punishment. She stated PCAO will not seek draconian punishments like the death penalty and juvenile life without parole. She said the death penalty is costly and a case that can go on for decades without resolution.

“It’s common sense to move away from that when we have plenty of other options to again, resolve cases and keep the community safe,” said Conover.

Wrongful convictions will also be handled differently. For example, a simple drug possession of marijuana.

Now that it’s legal, Conover favors expungement and working with those who fall into that category.

“My unit is going to be looking to see what steps we can take proactively to go find cases where people would not even be prosecuted today, and see if we can’t take that stigma and that felony conviction off of them.”

Her focus on being data driven will extend to drug charges. Instead of incarceration, Conover is following data-driven alternatives, like their new program, STEPS, that will be a pre-charge drug diversion program. It aims to help end the criminalization of mental illness & substance use disorders.

“We don’t want people marked forever and unable to work because of something that happened 20 years ago, that should’ve been resolved medically,” said Conover.

That program starts in the Spring, but in January, the focus will be on immigration.

Conover plans to enact office-wide training to help local prosecutors be educated about immigration consequences, like family separation.

Conover is also putting together a fraud unit, and plans to do education campaigns to help people protect themselves, especially the elderly and laborers.

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