Dallas County DA's new policies aim at ending mass incarceration

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot ran his campaign on promises of positive change in the criminal justice system.

Cruezot released his reform initiatives on Thursday that focus on ending mass incarcerations.

Those who know Cruezot well consider him pragmatic, innovative and a problem solver. He's only been in office 100 days, but he says the new initiates are the foundation of what will ensure justice is fairly and evenly dispensed to all Dallas County residents and very likely save taxpayer money along the way.           

Mike Snipes was the first assistant DA under former Republican DA Faith Johnson. He supports the measures of current Dallas County DA and Democrat John Creuzot.

“I learned a lot from him when we were judges together,” Snipes said. “He's a very progressive, forward thinking and innovative district attorney."

Cruezot outlined what he calls data-driven reform policies that'll streamline the justice system and make them more fair and just for everyone, regardless of race or financial standing.

The policies range from bail reform to misdemeanor marijuana possession. It’s something that sends mixed signals to police agencies across Dallas County.

Criminal Defense Attorney Pete Schulte is a former police officer. He doesn't dispute the DA's authority of what to prosecute, but he says some police agencies are frustrated by his decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

"If you get arrested, you’re not going to get prosecuted when you get to the DA's office. But that's not the state law,” he said. “State law says it's still a crime to possess any amount of marijuana."

Snipes believes the DA's office should spend resources on prosecuting violent offenders and not small amounts of marijuana. 

"That's the trend throughout the country,” Snipes said. “And number two: All these prosecutions are expensive and time-consuming. And there's big monstrous cases that you need to focus your time and attention on, not a nickel bag of marijuana.”

Other initiates, such as bond reform, aim at reducing mass incarceration and saving taxpayer money.

"We can't have people sitting in jail who have not been convicted of a crime just because they can't afford to get out,” Schulte said.

Creuzot says he wants to treat people with fairness and dignity while keeping the community safe.

"I'm not at all surprised that he's off to this extremely strong start, and I expect that to continue,” Snipes said.

Creuzot was out of town Thursday when the new reform policies were announced. But he will be back Friday at the courthouse to further explain the initiatives.

The new reform policies will deal with cases in the following areas:

  • First-time misdemeanor marijuana possession
  • THC possession
  • Possession of trace amounts of drugs
  • Drug possession cases without laboratory reports
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Theft of necessary items
  • Driving while license invalid (DWLI)
  •  Misdemeanor pre-trial diversion expunctions
  • Probation
  • Bail reform
  • Magistration                   

Creuzot wrote an open letter to the public with a detailed outline of the new changes. Click here to read it.