“In a nation that incarcerates more people than  anywhere in the world, we have work to do. 
Most of those are non-violent offenders. We have done a poor job at trying to help these offenders come back into society.”

“In a nation that incarcerates more people than anywhere in the world, we have work to do. 
Most of those are non-violent offenders. We have done a poor job at trying to help these offenders come back into society.”

- David O. Leavitt
Putting the focus on prosecuting crime that is hurting people.
Redemption Not Retribution is the tough, compassionate approach to criminal Justice reform
Entering a third year of bringing innovative reforms to the Utah County Attorney’s Office, David Leavitt is seeking to make one of the most conservative counties in the country a leader and  model of criminal justice reform.

“In a nation that incarcerates more people than anywhere in the world, we have work to do,” Leavitt said. He continues, “Most of those are non-violent offenders. We have done a poor job at trying to help these offenders come back into society.”

Leavitt believes that he can help unite prosecutors throughout the country, in some of the innovations that is creating change in Utah County. Some of those changes include an innovations in a pre-filing diversion program, a screening process that focuses the direction of a case from the start, and not jailing non-violent offenders. We are working to put the violent and dangerous in jail. We look for solutions and ways to work with people that are designed to not make criminals out of nonviolent personal use drug offenders, providing them an opportunity to restart their lives.

“90 percent of offenders are not violent people. While some just need to be locked up, the vast majority of offenders need different options for punishment and rehabilitation.” Leavitt is one of six elected American prosecutors identified by the American Bar Association who is changing the paradigms in criminal justice). Leavitt is passionate about working to reduce the system’s revolving door of recidivism by finding different solutions. “You can’t prosecute your way out of addiction. You can’t jail your way out of addiction.”

Reforms We Are Working On NOW!

1) Reducing Plea Bargains

How a few small measureS bring Greater protection to constitutional freedoms.

Plea bargains have a place in our justice system. But they have become tools used to bypass courts--sometimes at the expense of justice. Plea bargains are under the discretion of the prosecutor, so there are no true standards of when they can and should be used. Some have used pleas to pile on charges so that charges can be reduced and the defendant shipped off to jail.

I know we can do better. I know that the key to reducing plea bargains is in the screening process. We've completely restructured the screening process to bring appropriate checks and balances, to identify areas that need additional investigation, and to bring more predictability to the disposition of the case. We still plea cases, but we do it with greater consistency, and we are sending more trials to court as jury trials. It won't change overnight. But we can create more fairness by protecting everyone's Constitutional rights.

2) Restoring the Jury Trial

The People alone were given the right to accuse and the right to determine guilt.

We could go into a great history lesson here about how and why the right to accuse a crime and the right to determine the guilt for the crime was never given to government. It was given to THE PEOPLE.

So how did we get to the point that we plea bargain 99% of our cases. That's the history lesson. It eroded over time. We are perilously close to losing a right provided in the Constitution if we don't draw the line in the sand.

As the Utah County Attorney, I've worked to help us return to trying more trials by jury. I find key benefits mean that we have attorneys that are prepared to go to trial with solid evidence. It recognizes the value of solid investigative work provided by law enforcment because they are given an opportunity to witness to the evidence collected. It helps all of us as citizens to appreciate the Constitutional rights afforded to us. 

It gives US the opportunity to protect those rights from eroding completely away. We have a Republic, like the Founders said, if we can keep it.

3) Changing Addiction

Ending the revolving door of addiction and lost taxpayer dollars invested in 14 day jail terms.

Addiction is a tough one. The War on Drugs has turned into a War Against the People Addicted to Drugs. Addiction is a complex issue. 

Focus on jailing the true criminals. I fully support law enforcement and our task forces in going after cartels, gangs, dealers, and manufacturers. They need and deserve to serve time in prison for the destruction they bring to our society. 

But I think you may agree that addiction belongs in its own category. In our county, nearly 90% of offenders are non-violent, and many are dealing with addiction while they await their day in court. Sometimes for months. Certainly long enough to lose a job, a place to live and destroy their futures.

I started the first pre-filing diversion program in the state—maybe the nation— that allows a contractual agreement, mentoring, and help paid by the participant in an effort to not be labeled a criminal. When we create and label people as criminals we change the trajectory of their lives. We destroy opportunities for rehabilitation, work, housing, and becoming a contributor to society.

We are smart enough to create programs that encourage connections between mentors and participants that result in change. For those tough cases, where someone doesn't want to change? They get to go through the court systems.
up to 60%
up to 90%
2.3 million
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