This is the last part of a three part series on Criminal Justice. You can read my overview here.

As your next Attorney General, I will work hard to fix the criminal justice system for the health and safety of our communities and to protect victims of crime in Colorado.  To do so, I will work to develop and institute real policies to improve the lives of Coloradans and help our state for years to come.

Addressing Sexual Assault

Sexual assault remains a pervasive threat.  In a 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20% of all women reported having been raped and many more reported cases of sexual violence other than rape. There is much more we can do to support victims and enable them to report crimes without fear of intimidation or embarrassment.

As Attorney General, I will work to ensure that survivors have access to the resources necessary to begin the healing process.  An important element of this effort is increasing access to sexual assault nurse examiners—or “SANE nurses”—who receive specialized training in providing trauma-informed physical and mental health care for victims and in collecting and preserving forensic evidence following a sexual assault.  As AG, I will spearhead such training and encourage the use of SANE nurses more broadly.  To support this effort and an enhanced commitment to addressing such cases, I will create a special Sexual Assault Assistance Unit of specialized prosecutors and investigators in the Attorney General’s office to offer their experience and expertise to district attorneys across the state on sexual assault cases.  For smaller counties, this unit will provide invaluable support and offer expertise that they otherwise would lack in addressing sexual assault.

It is essential that we train investigators to ensure that survivors feel heard and respected when interacting with law enforcement.  Taking the wrong approach to sexual assault cases can lead to further mistreatment of victims. Consequently, we must train law enforcement on how to recognize, understand, and respond effectively and empathetically to trauma victims. For example, trauma victims may be unable to speak and communicate effectively. To an untrained responder, the limitation might undermine the victim’s credibility, but those trained in trauma-informed care will recognize and respect the victim’s experience. As Attorney General, I will lead the Colorado Police Officer Standards and Training (POST), which is housed in the Attorney General’s office, to ensure that the law enforcement training curriculum devotes significant time to this critically important topic and that it includes participation by victims’ service experts.

Combatting Human Trafficking

Given that human trafficking touches all parts of our state (and other states and countries), the Attorney General’s office is well positioned to develop a special team to work with and support District Attorney’s offices across the state.  Human trafficking targets vulnerable populations.  In Colorado, over a hundred cases are reported a year via a national hotline, a number that’s likely significantly lower than the number of cases that go unnoticed and unreported.  As our next Attorney General, I will prioritize addressing the illegal and inhumane trafficking of often-underage individuals for sex and labor.  Because these cases are often multi-jurisdictional and complex, a new statewide team can work to improve our approach and responses to human trafficking crimes.

Seeking Alternatives to Incarceration for Those Living with Substance Abuse Disorders or Mental Illness

A number of communities in Colorado have implemented drug and mental health courts, enabling those abusing opioids, other drugs, or confronting serious mental illness to get the help they need rather than face a lengthy jail sentence.  As Attorney General, I will work with leaders around the State, including our District Attorneys, County Sheriffs, public health officials, public defenders, and mental health professionals to promote diversion efforts for drug and mental health treatment as opposed to criminal sentences wherever possible.  This is the essence of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program that I am committed to support and that is being implemented in Pueblo and Alamosa, among other counties.  I will also seek to bring drug treatment and mental health services to jails and prisons for those who have committed serious crimes and need treatment.  And I will work with the legislature to provide prosecutors with even more discretion to use such diversionary programs.  We need to do better.

Revitalizing Environmental Criminal Enforcement, Elder Abuse Prosecution, and Conviction Integrity

As Colorado Attorney General, I will continue Colorado’s long history of leadership in protecting our land, air, and water.  In so doing, I will follow Ken Salazar’s example of reinvigorating environmental enforcement at the Colorado Attorney General’s office.  When Ken was our Attorney General, for example, he established an environmental crimes unit and brought cases that protected our water, land, and air, like his action to address the water contamination involving the Summitville Mine.  Our current Attorney General has shut down this unit, leaving our state less protected against corporate polluters.  As our next Attorney General, I will revitalize our Environmental Crimes Unit.

Those over 65 years old represent the fastest growing portion of Colorado’s population. Unfortunately, as members of our families age, they are increasingly vulnerable to organized scams and abuse.  Whether criminals claim to be a threatening IRS agent demanding money “or else,” impersonate a computer tech support service, or employ a fraudulent “romance scam,” elder Coloradans are being cheated out of their hard earned money every day. To address the growing elder abuse problem, I will establish a new Elder Abuse Unit in the Attorney General’s office to combat the criminal targeting of Colorado’s elder population for financial and physical exploitation.

The new Elder Abuse Unit will be a shared resource for local prosecutors, providing access to trained professionals, the State Grand Jury, and an ability to collaborate across jurisdictions.  By working collectively across jurisdictions, Colorado can better identify scams and abuses of the elderly population, manage a centralized database, and undertake consumer education efforts.  By collaborating not only with our fellow Colorado enforcement agencies, but also with Federal authorities and State Attorneys General across the U.S., we will do everything in our power to reduce the reward and increase the risk of criminal exploitation of Colorado’s elderly population.

When I served as Colorado Law’s Dean, I established the Korrey Wise Innocence Project there.  Korrey Wise was wrongly imprisoned for a rape he did not commit (as one of the “Central Park Five”).  When he was released, and compensated for his unlawful imprisonment, he wanted to invest in an innocence project and chose to do so here in Colorado.  Our Attorney General’s office used to have a Conviction Integrity Unit to complement the work of the Korrey Wise Innocence Project, but our current AG shut it down.  As our next AG, I will re-establish and enhance a Conviction Integrity Unit in our Attorney General’s office.

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At its most effective, the criminal justice system works in conjunction with communities to increase overall wellbeing and safety. As Attorney General, I am committed to facilitating these cooperative frameworks, and ensuring that our communities feel supported by our criminal justice system.