Candidate Message: Chris Johnson, Attorney General, Democrat

One of the biggest races for statewide office is Delaware Attorney General.  Chris Johnson is one of four Democrats vying for the office.  Johnson will face Kathy Jennings, LaKresha Roberts, and Tim Mullaney on Thursday in the Delaware Primary.  The winner will go against Republican Bernard Pepukayi in the November General Election.  Chris was kind enough to present his message and he focused on an area that I feel the Attorney General’s Office needs to do more with, education.

My name is Chris Johnson and I am running to become Delaware’s next Attorney General. The number one role of the Attorney General is to ensure public safety and justice for all of Delaware’s communities. I believe wholeheartedly that safety must first begin in our schools — which are often the only safe haven that students have.

I understand that most issues regarding public education are not directly under the purview of the Attorney General’s office. However, during debates and forums, I find it hard not to bring up public education policy, because it so directly intersects with criminal justice policy. Issues that have formed a core part of my platform — income inequality and lack of economic opportunities — have a direct effect on the school-to-prison pipeline that exists everywhere, but especially in Delaware. Through my time participating in street law clinics, as a member of the Board of Directors of the Delaware Center for Justice, and as Vice Chair of the Wilmington Democratic Party, I have seen first-hand the need for trauma-informed, hands-on solutions to help our most vulnerable students succeed.

When it comes to the issue of school safety, I believe the conversation has drifted too far into the realm of “arming teachers:” instead, why aren’t we talking more about weighted funding for our most at-risk and high-need students? I also support additional funding for schools to increase the number of counselors and other support professionals who can remove the overwhelming burden often felt by our public school teachers who spend more time policing than instructing their classrooms. I also support the work of non-profit organizations such as the Delaware Center for Justice and others who provide direct services in schools with vulnerable populations.

As Attorney General, I commit to working with and improving communication between the Department of Justice and other state agencies such as the Department of Correction, the Department of Health and Social Services, and the Department of Education. I intend to work closely, as well, with law enforcement professionals, local governments, school districts and school boards. I intend to do whatever is within the authority of the AG’s office to address these issues, whether that’s testifying in Dover on related legislation or working with national experts on new ways to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and other pilot programs.

I propose to find additional funding for preventative programs through reducing the prison population in Delaware. My initiatives would include ending cash bail, conducting a review of convictions imposed under Truth-in-Sentencing guidelines and the 1994 (federal) Crime Bill, pursuing sentence modifications and early releases where appropriate (such as for elderly prisoners aging out of crime or non-violent offenders). In the latter category, I wholeheartedly support Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester’s federal initiative to seal the records of non-violent drug offenders who have one offense.

As Delaware’s Attorney General, I will fight the degradation of the federal Department of Education by the Trump Administration and Betsy DeVos. I will refuse federal funding to purchase weapons such as AR-15s to arm our teacher — a ridiculous waste of federal money, which could increase, not reduce — violence in our schools.

I believe that the punishment should fit the crime and believe in appropriate sentences for violent crimes. However, I also believe that the Department of Justice must do more to work on preventative measures in concert with other state agencies, law enforcement, and community leaders to prevent the lives of some of Delaware’s youth and first-time offenders from entering a downward spiral from which they cannot escape.

In sum, every dollar we spend in a prison cell is not spent in a classroom. As Attorney General, I will do my part to fix this equation.

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