Lost Coast Outpost | Humboldt County

The Revolving Door: Humboldt County Spends Nearly Twice As Much On Probation as on Prosecution

From Michael Acosta/June 7, 2022, 12:06 p.m.


“CLOSING ARGUMENTS”

 by

Michael Philip Acosta, Jr.

Doctor of Jurisprudence & California Licensed Attorney at Law

since 1999,

&

Dark Horse Candidate for the Office of District Attorney

In and for the County of Humboldt, State of California

in 2022.

If you are still undecided about your choice for District Attorney and haven’t yet voted, please…for the Republic… take a moment today or tomorrow to ask yourself the following question:

Which do you want to see in the next District Attorney administration?

The Historic Evolution of our Criminal Justice System?

or

The Status Quo of a Revolving Door?

One Final Analogy to Remember for the Next Four Years:

If a plane has a mechanical failure in flight, it won’t make the plane fly any better if a better pilot assumes control. The plane will still proceed in a downward spiral because the plane needs a mechanic, not a pilot.

********Closer to the problem, the better to fix it.********

     I want to thank the Lost Coast Outpost’s readers who participated in the candidates’ forum by posing questions, some of which were light-hearted, some of which were gravely serious, and some of which were downright perplexing.  Your questions not only grilled the candidates by cornering each of us into taking actual positions on issues,  but they also helped the candidates formulate their platforms.  Besides the handful of community-hosted “candidate-exchange forums” (I recently learned that it’s not politically correct to use the word “debate” anymore), answering your questions was my primary method of campaigning, because I think that candidates shouldn’t patronize voters with redundant displays of non-substantive campaign advertisements.  I have always thought that if a candidate is willing to lavishly spend campaign finances on redundant signage and rhetorical campaign advertising, then how would this candidate spend the public’s money as an elected official?

     In any event, through the process of answering your questions, I have developed the following manifesto of principles and goals that would shape the new paradigm for your District Attorney’s Office and govern my decision-making if you were to elect me as your next District Attorney:

  1. Plea bargains that only involve Terminal Sentences, without the “Revolving Door” of Probation.  Humboldt County spends nearly twice as much money on Probation than it does on Prosecution!!  [Probation costs the county over $14 million per year, while the District Attorney’s Office costs about $7.67 million.]  No wonder the system is broken; we spend more money spinning the revolving door than we do sending people through it!

  2. A District Attorney’s Office that has a healthy, but not ethically conflicted, working relationship with law enforcement, maintaining the required degree of separation so that the District Attorney’s Office can ethically screen cases and make charging decisions with the interest of justice in mind.

  3. A District Attorney who carries a caseload of the most important criminal cases in the County.

  4. A District Attorney’s Office in which investigators on staff will be tasked with assisting prosecutors in preparing for trials, instead of supplementing pre-arrest law enforcement investigations

  5. A District Attorney’s office that is approachable and has an inclusive perspective of who its client is, being the People of the State of California.

  6. A District Attorney’s Office that leaves the journalism to the independent free press, but is responsive to their inquiries so that the news media can decide what is newsworthy, and so the District Attorney’s Office can ethically serve its purpose as a law firm that represents the People, instead of a self-serving propaganda machine that that can’t determine what is broken about itself for lack of any critique by independent investigative journalists.

  7. Prioritized Prosecution of Property Crimes.  Crimes of theft and vandalism will not be plea bargained away, and new emphasis will be placed on the return of property recovered for victims.

  8. Local Adoption of the United Nations and World Health Organizations 2017 Joint recommendation of “reviewing and repealing punitive laws that have been proven to have negative health outcomes and that counter established public health evidence. These include laws that criminalize or otherwise prohibit gender expression, same sex conduct, adultery and other sexual behaviours between consenting adults; adult consensual sex work; drug use or possession of drugs for personal use.” [https://drugpolicy.org/blog/united-nations-and-world-health-organization-call-drug-decriminalization ]

  9. County Exclusion/Banishment/Exile for Repeat Offenders, as a cost-saving alternative remedy to mass incarceration. It costs $106,000 per year to house 1 inmate in California, so why not just banish a nonviolent repeat offender from the County for the maximum term, rather than spending money to house that offender for only half of that time (e.g. a 3 year banishment with a cost of $0.00 versus  a 1 ½ year local jail term, with 50% “good time” credits , at a cost of $159,000, not including the cost of prosecution.) 

  10. Citizen Oversight of officer-involved shooting and police misconduct through use of civil and criminal grand juries.  Rather than one person making determinations in cases of police misconduct, or internal affairs assessing themselves, a more inclusive perspective of The People will make that determination.

  11. A correctional facility operating at maximum capacity of convicted inmates serving terminal sentences for crimes that caused actual harm to persons or property.  The central theme of my campaign has been that “We don’t have to put More People in Jail, we just have to put the Right People in Jail..

  12. Zero tolerance for unregistered sex offenders and continuous year-round enforcement to eliminate the 30+ noncompliant offender entries currently existing on the official Megan’s Law website.

  13. Racial Disparity Checks Before all Sentencing Hearings (rather than post-conviction statistical analysis) to ensure that there is no disparity in sentencing based on race in Humboldt County.  All prosecutors would be tasked with the responsibility of referencing empirical sentencing data to ensure that all stipulated plea offers to defendants and sentencing arguments to the Court do not demonstrate racial disparity in sentencing.

  14. Gender-Neutral Prosecutions. Men and women will be treated equally in  charging decisions, in sentencing offers and arguments, and in assessing their credibility as witnesses.  DV cases where mutual aggression is apparent will bemutually charged  to both involved persons if one of them wants to press charges or not charged at all if neither person involved wants to press charges.

  15. Universal Victim Advisements on the availability of Restorative Justice as an alternative remedy to prosecution of the offender compliance with existing California Civil Compromise statutes.

  16. Transparency and Disclosure of “Otherwise Illegal Activity” authorized by law enforcement that meets or exceeds FBI standards for such reporting and public disclosure, so that the public knows the whole story and the true costs of the use and abuse of quid pro quo informants.

  17. True Fiscal Conservatism.  Every solution that I have proposed to fix our broken criminal justice system would result in a substantial cost reduction to the taxpayers. We can reduce reliance on probation by only seeking terminal sentences and thereby reduce the County’s $14 million expenditure on the Probation Department  by millions of dollars. [Notice, the County spends nearly TWICE the money on Probation as it does on Prosecution!! …. Broken system?…..maybe?] We can require the police to use their department-issued Body-Worn-Cameras by instituting a Presumption of Citizen Credibility (absent video evidence) and thereby save tens of millions of dollars for Humboldt County and the State of California in courtroom litigation costs.  [If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a million.] We can save $106,000 in housing costs per year per inmate by doing this.

  18. A policy of simple Confiscation of contraband for felons with no violent criminal history, in order to save costs and free up resoures.

  19. Exclusion (banishment) of our worst repeat offenders from the County on a stipulated deferred entry of judgment basis, rather than housing them in the jail.   

  20. Finally, Reconciliation and Redemption of and from the incongruous and disreputable position of being The Most Incarcerated Nation in the World, and very likely in the History of the World, while NOT presently being in Top 20 of the Safest Nations in the World. [USNews currently ranks the United States 38th in safety, behind such countries as Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, and Italy, among 32 others.] 

[https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/rankings/safe]

      What I have proposed in this election cycle would be a historic, modern return to the roots of criminal justice theory.The retributive justice theory aims onlyat equally imposing deserved punishment proportional to harm caused by an offender,  rather than aiming at:

  1.  Deterrence: “the reduction of offending (and future offending) through the sanction or threat of sanction.”  Despite the total lack of empirical evidence that punishment deters crime (i.e. as we see in  the United States today), this is nonetheless what the Probation Department, over many years per supervisee,  attempts to achieve for us; or

  2.  Utility: subtracting from an offender’s deserved punishment the present use the offender has to us. This is ethically problematic, not only depending on who “us” is within our criminal justice institutions but also because of the instant principal-agent conflict created when public institutions aimed at doing good make secretive deals with criminals trying to avoid punishment.   It is also inequitable to those who, by virtue of the genetic lottery or social circumstance, are “useless” to our criminal justice system.

The goal of retributive justice is simply to impose deserved punishment, so it cuts out all utilitarian and deterrent considerations.  In other words, a genuine public policy of  “Do the Crime & Do the Time,” instead of the moral hypocrisy,  lack of public transparency, and even internal lack of accountability of the present administration’s policy of “Tell on Three and Go Free,” which is largely responsible (particularly when commingled with probation) for our present unsatisfactory circumstances.  The public mustrealize that the costs of quid pro quo trading between our institutions of justice and the criminal underworld are absorbed by the many private, law-abiding individuals in the form of loss of property at the hands of those whom have been let to “Go Free” by our criminal justice institutions. Until the public realizes this, the criminal justice system will remain broken.

(There is 2007 Joint Session of the U.S. House of Representatives that addresses how out of control this problem is at the local level, It’s worth checking out:

[https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-115hhrg26553/html/CHRG-115hhrg26553.htm])

     I would urge the public to hold prosecutors accountable to the following principles of criminal justice theory: Justice that is Retrospective, in that it holds individuals accountable for crimes committed regardless of the present or future utility of the offender.  Justice is Proportional, in that the punishment will fit the crime.  Justice that is Equitable, in that it will be the same for all persons convicted of the same crime. 

In Your Lifetime 

With Your Vote in this election

You can be a Harbinger of History or another Brick in the Boredom.

Pick your Poison.

Vote Your Conscience

And with Your Vote

secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.



Thank you.