Public safety is compromised every day in Harris County because our elected leaders choose to focus the attention of the criminal justice system on low-level crime while failing to solve and successfully prosecute some of the most serious crimes. This approach is costly, counter-productive, and cruel. It creates a cycle of incarceration that destroys people and families without doing anything to make us safer.
The current District Attorney promised that she would reform this broken system, but sadly little has changed. We are still locking up people for possessing marijuana and detaining people who are presumed innocent because they cannot afford the high bail amounts requested at the direction of the current District Attorney.
We need to rewrite the rules of our criminal justice system in Harris County. We must focus our resources on holding people accountable for the most serious crimes, and investing in evidence-based services like mental health and drug treatment that we know work to interrupt cycles of crime and help people become stable, contributing members to their families and communities.
That’s the justice system Audia Jones will fight for everyday as your District Attorney.
Audia is running for District Attorney because true criminal justice reform in Harris County requires policies that will:
Increase Safety While Ending Mass Incarceration;
End Excessive Punishment;
Ensuring That No One Is Above The Law;
Support Crime Survivors; and,
Build Community Trust.
INCREASE SAFETY WHILE Ending Mass Incarceration
Incarceration should always be the last resort, but right now we treat incarceration as the default way to hold people accountable. People who pose no threat to public safety should not be jailed, particularly when they’re only there because they can’t afford to pay to get out. As District Attorney, Audia will stop seeking cash bail and will seek to eliminate pretrial incarceration unless necessary to ensure community safety or to prevent willful failure to return to court.
Furthermore, we must recognize that the incarceration for certain criminal offenses does little to increase public safety, and, instead, only makes our communities more dangerous by making people and their families even less stable. This is particularly true for brown and black families, because prosecution of low-level crimes contribute to a persistent racial imbalance in our criminal justice system- for example, even though Latinos, African-Americans and white people use marijuana at the same rate, Latinos and African-Americans are more likely to be arrested, charged, and convicted than their white counterparts.
In order to focus on those crimes that affect public safety, Audia will de-prioritize low level offenses like marijuana possession and criminal trespass when the trespass occurred due to a person’s homelessness. The prosecution of these cases in particular draws vital resources and attention away from the cases that need it the most, and contribute to racial disparities in our criminal justice system.
Harris County must also focus on programs that build both the individual and their community. Audia will expand no-fee diversion programs, which have been shown to reduce rates of re-arrest, for crimes such as theft, and crimes of poverty and homelessness. She will ensure that prosecutor-led diversion programs are administered in ways that are fair to citizens and non-citizens alike, and that ability to pay fees is not a barrier to treatment. Possession of small amounts of narcotics will be handled effectively, by treating the problem as one of a public health issue and not something that the criminal justice system can solve on it’s own.
Ending excessive Punishment
Harris County has sent more people to death row than any other county in Texas. The retrograde practice risks the execution of a wrongly convicted person, serves no purpose beyond retribution, and is disproportionately applied to people of color. As District Attorney, Audia Jones will use her voice at the legislature to oppose capital punishment in Texas and she will end Harris County’s ignoble position as one of the country’s largest producers of death sentences and executions.
Our prisons have become one of the largest health care providers in the country for older Americans who have spent decades behind bars for crimes they committed in their youth. Moreover, there are thousands of people serving long or life sentences in Texas that have served enough time, transformed their lives while incarcerated, and no longer present any serious safety risk to the community. Audia Jones will actively advocate for parole and compassionate release for those who are elderly or sick, and for everyone who has earned a second chance to re-enter society as a productive neighbor and community member.
no one is above the law
While our criminal justice system targets the poor, people of color, the homeless, and those who are mentally ill, more serious crimes and abuses of power are far too often left unpunished. This is why Audia Jones will follow best practices and expand oversight to hold all individuals equally accountable under the law including, Powerful Actors, to increase public trust in law enforcement while decreasing socially-damaging crimes.
We must also make sure that the people and corporations who commit serious harms to our environment through their criminal actions are held accountable, and that people and corporations that steal wages from our most vulnerable communities are not able to do so without consequence.
Finally, it is a black-eye to our justice system that nearly 40% of homicides go unsolved. Nothing undermines confidence in the law and respect for law enforcement than failing to solve murders while focusing resources on marijuana prosecutions.
We have too much punishment and too little accountability. As District Attorney, Audia will ensure that resources saved by ending unnecessary prosecution and imprisonment of poor people will be redirected to investigate high-level and violent cases in an adequate and timely manner, ensuring that we can justly prosecute those offenses that affect our communities the most, in a way that does not punish race or poverty.
support crime survivors
For too long, the primary way that prosecutors show crime survivors that we care about the harm done to them is to treat the person who committed the harm as harshly as possible—locking them up and throwing away the key. However, a recent survey of Texas crime survivors shows that harsh treatment of the offender is not the support that survivors want or need.
What crime survivors want most is to make sure that the harm never happens to them or anyone else again. This is especially important because crime survivors often live in the same homes and often even in the same bodies as people who perpetrate harm. Since most people who go to jail or prison will re-enter society again, the smartest course of action is to focus resources on stopping the cycle of harm.
That’s why the vast majority of crime survivors want their elected leaders to focus just as much on investing far more resources on treatment and prevention as they do on punishment. Instability and vulnerability breed cycles of harm and violence. So, when we focus on drug treatment, mental health services, or job training we make people more stable and connected to their communities, and therefore less likely to be a perpetrator or victim of crime in the future
building community trust
Audia Jones recognizes that repeated systemic failures and broken promises of reform have severely eroded public trust in Harris County’s criminal justice system. Under her leadership, the Harris County D.A.’s Office will establish a community advisory board to provide community leaders with a public forum to voice concerns or provide feedback regarding office policies and actions.
The District Attorney’s office will also assign public points of contact for communities, hold frequent town halls for public comment, and clearly communicate reasons for prosecutorial action or inaction regarding cases in the public interest.
Audia will use her platform as Harris County District Attorney to advocate for important policy reforms and investment in our communities, such as in education, housing, and healthcare, and pledges to work with other county officials and departments to meet these shared goals.
It’s long past time to acknowledge that Harris County’s social and economic problems will not be solved by prosecution and incarceration. We will build a safer, stronger Harris County by holding more people accountable, ending excessive punishment, and decreasing our bloated jail and prison populations and preparing people to thrive back home in their families and communities.
After enduring decades of abuse and mistreatment, our communities have had enough. We need big, bold reform not more broken promises. Audia Jones is running for District Attorney because we need a District Attorney who will fight for all of us.