News

Burning for a change in the DA’s office

By Burner Cellphone

EDITORS NOTE: THIS LETTER WAS WRITTEN BY A CELL PHONE THAT’S RUNNING FOR OFFICE. THIS LETTER WAS SUBMITTED BEFORE LISA MIDDLEMAN ANNOUNCED HER CANDIDACY FOR DISTRICT ATTOURNEY AS AN INDEPENDENT.

Hello, my name is Burner Cell Phone and I am running for district attorney of Allegheny County. I am a TZE Trac Phone device that has been in existence for two years in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Throughout my life I have seen and heard things that the criminal justice system wants to keep out of popular discourse. I have listened to young defendants being pressured into plea bargaining without counsel present. In case after case, people are tried, convicted and sentenced without receiving due process. And we can see the same attorneys and judges pull this charade day after day in courtrooms downtown without public accountability. The time has come not for criminal justice reform, but for the beginning steps of abolition.

I am running because there is no honest discussion about ending mass incarceration in Pittsburgh. Our government, academic, and nonprofit institutions might speak of such things at educational events or even rallies, but they do so without a plan or strategy to make such a goal reality. The necessary concrete actions, such as ending cash bail, requiring adequate representation, and ending overcharging, are never cited as action to be taken. And these reforms alone will not be enough to change the system. Ending mass incarceration requires a mass movement to demand that things change. Because our institutions and elected officials are afraid to make these demands, I will make them my mission as district attorney and speak of them at every campaign event I am invited to.

If elected I will also make the protection of human and animal life a basic goal of the district attorney’s office. This means prosecuting police officers accused of police brutality to the fullest extent that the law allows. If we are going to have a police force, they are going to follow the rules, no exceptions. It also means prosecuting priests, teachers, and community leaders accused of sexual assault and other crimes, without regard for their status or position in society. And finally it means charging researchers and business owners with cruelty to the animals they have made careers out of mistreating. And the third major goal of my campaign will be to bring the principles of restorative justice into practice with our criminal justice system. If a person is adequately tried and convicted of a crime, they will be treated with dignity and mercy, not brutalization and neglect. This means that institutions such as the Allegheny County Jail will face criminal charges if they allow inmates to die by denying access to healthcare. Sentences recommended by the district attorney’s office will match the weight of the crime, and not be draconian in order to ensure ease in plea bargaining. Charges and sentences will also be done in the name of rehabilitation and deterrence, not cold retribution. The DA’s office will no longer function as a revenge factory.

Because I am running in Allegheny County, I know that my chances of victory are stacked against me. Not only is our criminal justice system broken, but our political system is as well. The Democratic Party controls electoral politics in Pittsburgh to the extent that our elections happen when the Democrats pick their candidate. The choices offered this year were Stephen Zappalla, who has a long history of tolerating the hallmarks of mass incarceration and police brutality, and Turahn Jenkins, who admitted to harboring bias against queer and transgendered folks These candidates are unacceptable and so is the one party system they represent.’ I won’t pretend to be the answer to all of the problems that I have described in this text, but if elected I will make sure that everyone knows they exist.

For more information, visit http://www.vote4burner.tk and follow Burner on Twitter @vote4burner

 

Vote4Burner is a project of Unity Division, a Pittsburgh based anarchist group. Burner Cellphone is a prison abolitionist who is running for District Attorney in Allegheny County

 

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