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Laura Conover: Year One in the books at the new Pima County Attorney's Office

Laura Conover: Year One in the books at the new Pima County Attorney's Office

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

In December 2020, shortly before I was sworn in as your Pima County Attorney, my senior leadership team and I developed a set of core values to guide us as an agency moving forward. Among those Core Values are Integrity, Diversity, Empathy and Inclusivity. You can find the full list, along with their practical applications, on our website:

To honor two other critical core values — transparency and accountability — we released a Year One Review this week from The People’s Office. It’s a short but meaty report on the challenges we faced and the strides these 330-plus extraordinary workers made in 2021 toward a safer and more just Pima County for all. In other words, it’s a report on The People’s Work.

The Year One Review provides a snapshot of some of the data that drives our responses to crime, including the number of homicides we have prosecuted this year, and the number of children brought into the criminal justice system for prosecution — children whom we will always treat as juveniles, not adults. It covers our responses to the ongoing pandemic, including our new charging policy for people arrested on drug possession and our Civil Division’s work to help Pima County implement the safest vaccine and mask guidelines and protocols.

What we have done to mitigate the collateral consequences of a conviction history is also covered in the report — things such as our involvement in rights restoration and, to meet the will of the voters who overwhelmingly passed Proposition 207, filing petitions to expunge marijuana convictions (though relief from the Court has not gone as smoothly, expeditiously or efficiently as we would have liked).

After all, prosecution is not the only thing that the Pima County Attorney’s Office (PCAO) can do to help build a safer community. Restoring everyone to as nearly whole as possible — both people who have suffered harm and people who have committed felony offenses, oftentimes being one and the same — is the key to a healthy, safe community in which families that belong together, stay together.

Our Victim Services Division is a huge component of that healing and restorative work. In fiscal 2020-21, our Victim Compensation Program helped victims of crime receive more than $508,000 in assistance and negotiated savings to cover things such as medical bills, extended time off from work, and funeral expenses. And that’s in addition to the on-scene, in-crisis support our victim advocates provide to people in the aftermath of trauma.

I doubt that we would have been able to communicate all that PCAO staff does to help heal, support and protect Pima County residents without our significant investment in time this year to be out in the community to hear from constituents. Whether it was through community cleanups or resource fairs or expungement clinics, we were reaching out in so many places we needed to be. We were told again and again that we were spending time in neighborhoods that didn’t have a connection to us previously. And that’s how change happens.

Our Year One Review is but another way we’re reaching out, in addition to the weekly reviews we post on social media and on the website, as well as our frequent media interviews and op-eds that I’ve published here in the Arizona Daily Star. Our goal is to make good on our commitment to transparency. But the only way we get from transparency to accountability is through the engagement of the citizenry of Pima County. We need you to engage us intellectually, to challenge us — with both honesty and seriousness — to come up with the best solutions to violence and injustices that our community faces.

With your help in 2022, we’ll build upon the strong foundation we have established and work even harder to create the bold change Pima County deserves.

Laura Conover is the Pima County Attorney.

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