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Annual report documents continuing progressive changes in Durham DA’s office

Durham District Attorney Satana Deberry

Last year Policy Watch reported on Durham District Attorney Satana Deberry’s progressive overhaul of that office’s policies, including the choice not to seek bail in most cases.

The changes seemed to make a very real difference even at the six-month mark.

But as the first month of 2019 comes to a close, Deberry’s office has released an annual report further documenting its changes and their impact.

From the report:

In 2019, the DA’s Office:

  •         Expanded its use of restorative justice, cognitive behavioral intervention and other programs that seek to repair harm, change unsafe behavior, and connect people to needed resources.
  •         Secured convictions on 25 homicide charges, including some of the county’s oldest pending homicide cases.
  •         Continued to discourage the use of money bail and reserve pretrial incarceration for serious offenses, contributing to a 12 percent decline in the jail population since January.
  •         Worked with the Durham Expunction and Restoration (DEAR) Program to waive $1.5 million in unpaid traffic debt preventing thousands of residents from being able to restore their drivers’ licenses.
  •         Held hours of staff training on topics including racial bias in jury selection, drug court administration, forensic science, the effects of trauma, homicide investigations, and victims’ rights.
  •         Prioritized victims’ needs through staff training and dedicating a secure, private room for victims, their families, and witnesses to use during court.
  •         Secured a rare human trafficking conviction, Durham’s first since 2011.
  •         Met monthly with law enforcement, victim advocates, and nurses to review the results of sexual assault evidence kit testing and pursue criminal charges.

“New approaches to criminal justice are needed for this system to truly work for everybody,” Deberry said in a statement on the report. “At the Durham DA’s Office, we have taken new approaches to cases at every level—with tangible results. In the past year, we have focused our office around holding people accountable for serious offenses, supporting those who have been harmed, and administering justice fairly, equitably and compassionately. We look forward to continuing to serve the people of Durham and working together for the safety of our entire community.”

Deberry’s office will hold a town hall Thursday, January 30, at 6:00 p.m. at St. Joseph AME, located at 2521 Fayetteville Street in Durham.

Read the full report here.

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