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Issues

Steve Howe Jury Trial Failure

Johnson County is a growing and developing community. Our District Attorney needs to grow and develop effective, evidence-based practices to keep the people of Johnson County safe. We need a cohesive plan to prosecute offenses in Johnson County. That cohesive plan must address, not only violent crime, but the lower-level/first-time offenders and those who suffer from chronic conditions like substance abuse or mental illness, who make up a large proportion of the crime occurring in our community.

Evidence-Based Practices Work. Years of research into the criminal justice system has revealed traditional, one-size-fits-all, punishment-based methods fail to keep communities safe. Evidence-based practices used in other communities improve the safety of the community and lower crime over all. Evidence-based approaches yield smarter prosecution practices which keep communities safer and reserve financial resources for prosecution and prevention of violent crimes.

As your District Attorney (DA), I will use modern, proven, evidence-based practices to work smarter (and harder) to keep the citizens of this community safe.

Violent Crime has risen in Johnson County more than 50%.
Since 2009, 50% more sexual assaults have occurred in Johnson County. In that same time frame, there have also been 50% more murders in Johnson County. More of these serious offenses are occurring in our community where families congregate, like Oak Park Mall. Something has to change to protect our community.

The primary purpose of the District Attorney is to keep Johnson County safe. This means providing experienced prosecutors with the resources they need to successfully prosecute violent offenders. It also means using smarter and more cost effective policies to prosecute low level offenders so that necessary resources are available to be dedicated to the worst offenders.

In order to protect Johnson County, a cohesive plan is necessary to prosecute violent offenders who are a danger to our society and to keep low level offenders from becoming violent offenders whenever possible. But the need for experienced and skilled prosecutors with the resources they need to protect Johnson County from the worst offenders is a key piece to that plan.

Kids need to be allowed to be kids.
Science, and practical experience, tells us that kids are different from adults. Their brains are still developing in critical areas of impulse control and recognition of the consequences of their actions. Because kids are different from adults who commit offenses, they should be handled differently from adult offenders.

The reality is that schools no longer have the discretion to independently handle the behavioral issues of students. All too often schools either voluntarily or are forced to involve law enforcement and prosecution in matters that can be resolved through school disciplinary practices. This criminalization of behavioral issues has lasting effects on the child and on their family. And unfortunately, the majority of this burden is suffered by children and families of color.

As District Attorney, I will work with schools and families to help keep children from being unnecessarily diverted to the criminal justice system. Agreements with individual districts to keep kids kids benefit our entire community.

Substance Abuse is an Epidemic1.
Substance abuse targets all corners of the population, young and old, educated and uneducated, rich or poor. Science has determined that substance abuse is a disease, no different from high blood pressure or diabetes. Because of this disease, many users become part of the criminal justice system and substance abuse is an overwhelming contributing factor to recidivism. Modern medicine based approaches need to be implemented to combat this disease and keep people from returning to the system.

Despite years of research supporting the use of drug courts to rehabilitate offenders, prevent recidivism, and treat this epidemic, Johnson County does not have a Drug Court2. These Drug Courts require regular, sometimes weekly, court appearances. They help individuals access drug treatment. They allow for immediate correction of relapse or risk behavior through high levels of supervision. And these Drug Courts provide these benefits while saving taxpayers money.

The people of Johnson County, Kansas, are safer when Drug Courts are used effectively to treat this disease and prevent people from re-offending. Drug Courts are a proven tool that can protect Johnson County. Drug Courts will be a priority in my administration to decrease crime and to conserve resources for successful prosecution of violent offenders.

1. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
2. https://www.sji.gov/wp/wp-content/uploads/KS_Drug_Court_Feasibility_Study.pdf

The Johnson County jail has been called “the largest mental health hospital in the State of Kansas.”1
The decrease in available mental health resources in the community has led to an increase in individuals whose untreated, symptomatic behaviors bring them into contact with the criminal justice system. Because of their instability and lack of treatment, they are held in jail where other similar defendants would be released.

Mental Health Courts provide offenders with assistance to access necessary services to rebuild their lives as productive members of our community. Not only mental health treatment, but housing assistance, social workers, employment or disability services, and other programs to help those who are mentally ill build a stable life that allows them to maintain their treatment regimens. It provides additional supervision to help keep individuals on their treatment programs, or face consequences.

Mental Illness is not a condition that people choose to suffer from and more people struggle with mental illness in our community than we realize. Forming a mental health court will help to direct and streamline other efforts in the community to support the mentally ill. It will provide assistance to family members to help their loved ones and keep the community safer. Smarter prosecution includes redirecting those who suffer from mental illness towards rebuilding their lives and supporting the community.

1. https://www.khi.org/news/article/advocates-of-kansas-mental-health-courts-say-lives-improved-taxpayer-dollar

Alternative Prosecution Programs Work.
Alternative prosecution programs, such as Diversion, work to reduce recidivism, provide treatment to those who need it, and allow an individual to avoid the damage to their life that criminal conviction brings. Alternative prosecution programs help keep the community safe, while reserving valuable resources for the successful prosecution of violent crime.

Steve Howe Diversion Failure

Diversion saves the taxpayer money.
The limited use of diversion programs cost more than $747,000.00 to the Johnson County tax payers1. Instead of appropriately utilizing these programs to reduce repeat offenders and save tax payer funds, Johnson County chose to punish low level offenders who didn’t need to be punished to know they were wrong and needed to improve their lives.

1. https://www.aclukansas.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/choosing_incarceration_-_aclu_report_on_diversion_in_kansas_-_updated_january_2018__0.pdf


Transparency builds trust.

The Johnson County District Attorney (DA) is entrusted with the duty to keep the public safe. That duty includes decisions on whether and how to prosecute those accused of violating the law. Trust in the District Attorney's Office is critical to keeping the community, and all of Kansas safe.

The way to build that trust is through transparency in decision making and sharing necessary information with the public. Public accountability for my decisions builds that necessary trust with the community the Johnson County District Attorney is sworn to protect.

A Better Way Forward

Change is needed and as DA I will make the changes necessary to protect Johnson County citizens. I will implement a policy of Smart Prosecution with two guiding principles: 1) Establish a primary focus on aggressively and competently prosecuting violent crime; and 2) Work with the District Courts to launch specialty courts to address drug addiction and mental disorders to reduce crime and save taxpayer money for lower level offenders.

1. Reducing Violent Crime

Under the current District Attorney violent crime has increased 50%. Public areas such as Oak Park Mall have seen a startling rise in violent crimes and murders are becoming routine in Johnson County. This has to change. My primary and overarching principle as District Attorney will be to keep Johnson County safe by incarcerating violent offenders. Under my administration, if you commit a violent crime in Johnson County you are going to have the full attention of an experienced, trial-tested prosecutor who has a singular focus of making sure you and everyone else knows that there will be a steep price to pay. This is currently not happening and it needs to change.

2. Specialty Rehabilitative Courts

Specialty courts reduce future crime by addressing the underlying causes of crime. The majority of offenders incarcerated are non-violent offenders who struggle with drug addiction and mental illness. Drug and Mental Health Courts are specialty courts that have a singular focus of providing accountability and assistance to non-violent offenders who seek positive change. These specialty courts enjoy bipartisan support nationwide and use evidence-based methods to rehabilitate non-violent offenders. Study after study has found that specialty rehabilitative courts reduce crime, reduce repeat offenders, and save money. Johnson County needs these courts. The current District Attorney refuses to implement them.

We need a smarter approach. We need change and new leadership in Johnson County, Kansas. Together, we can lead. Together, we can focus on punishing violent offenders while using rehabilitation on low-risk offenders to break the cycle and create a safer community.

Let’s get this done. I hope you’ll join me.

Johnson County DA signature

About Us

The Johnson County, Kansas, District Attorney's Office should reflect the highest standards our community expects as it continues to grow. Modern evidence based practices will help protect all of Johnson County. I am running to be your prosecutor; not another politician.