Q1 Please provide constituents your campaign contact information.
Name Scott Burns
Email Address BurnsLaw7@gmail.com
Phone Number 435-592-9806
Q2 Please include any campaign website or campaign social media information below.
Facebook Scott Burns For Iron County Attorney
Q3 Topic 1: Reducing Utah Incarceration RatesUtah has made efforts to reduce incarceration through legislation passed in 2015 known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI). The legislation aimed to reverse Utah’s trend of prison population growth at six times faster than the national average. Now law, the JRI changed sentencing and parole guidelines and created program oversight to reduce incarceration and recidivism.As County Attorney, you will have the power to change office policy on many aspects of criminal prosecutions. For example, recently elected Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner issued a memorandum to his staff outlining when to decline certain charges, when to offer diversions, and guidelines for plea offers and sentencing arguments. The policy changes are an acknowledgment of and an effort to end mass incarceration.
How will you incorporate the JRI’s goals of reducing incarceration and recidivism into your local County Attorney policies?
As the Executive Director of the National District Attorneys Association (2009 -- 2014) I had an opportunity to work closely with the PEW Institute and consulted with many District Attorneys across the country as JRI (known by other names in different states) was implemented. Obviously I, and every other elected Prosecutor I know, strive to reduce incarceration rates ... that is a given. That said, inherent in JRI was that a good portion of the money saved by the State would go to expanding Treatment Facilities, Drug Courts (and other specialty Courts), fund Monitoring Technology like SCRAM and other devices on the market to ensure compliance, fund more Inpatient Programs and essentially work closely with all stakeholders to help an offender (especially those suffering from substance and alcohol abuse) get well and productive. I'm pretty sure Philadelphia's issues are different than Iron County's issues so the comparison is not helpful -- but in Iron County we have not seen any new monies made available and the thought is (a) we drastically reduced incarceration rates, (b) none of the money went to help offenders once released (or never incarcerated in the first place) and (c) we are setting them up for failure. What is happening is people are, predictably, re-offending and Prosecutors have to charge them yet again ... and they are released because of JRI -- and on the 3rd or 4th offense they are then incarcerated. In addition, again predictably, Drug Courts are emptying out (no incentive to complete a difficult program to get clean when there is no threat of jail hanging over ones head) and other Treatment programs are likewise seeing drastic declines. This would be an interesting discussion if the only downside to JRI in Utah was an increased workload for law enforcement and prosecutors (arresting and charging three and four times) except for the fact that people are dying -- especially young people -- and the primary cause is opiate addiction and because there is no threat of a sanction (third or fourth arrest and conviction for heroin, other opiates, meth, cocaine, etc) they continue to use and the outcomes have been devastating in Iron County. If the foregoing weren't enough, Iron County recently became #1 in Utah for suicides, per capita of course, and the vast majority of the suicides are young people who suffer from addiction. So I am having a difficult time "cheering" for JRI and "promising" to do all I can to support it -- and I won't support it until we see some of the "millions in savings in Utah" directed toward Treatment. Stated as simple as I can, JRI has caused (in Utah) for much more work for law enforcement and prosecutors and an unacceptable level of overdose deaths and suicides. A woman down the hall from my law office "screamed and wailed" last week and as I ran down the hall to her office I was told that her 26 year old daughter -- having been convicted for heroin for the 3rd time with no sanctions or required treatment, died of an overdose.
Q4 Do you support alternatives to incarceration?
Q5 If yes, what alternatives to incarceration do you support?
Other (please specify):
All of the above -- incarceration should always be the last resort, but we have to do better in providing "help" to those that suffer from the disease of addiction, just saying "I'm in favor of alternatives to incarceration" is silly, of course I do, but we have to provide help for those that are routinely sent back out on the street; I have had parents and husbands and grandparents "BEG ME" to please, please lock their loved one up to save his or her life.
Q6 Topic 2: Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice SystemThe Justice Reinvestment Initiative’s 2017 Annual Report found that the percentage of minorities newly committed to prison has increased from 34% to 43% since 2015, the year the JRI became Utah law. Before that time, the percentage of newly committed minorities had been stable at 34%. (Note that 2016 census estimates show that minorities only account for approximately 21% of Utah's population).
What will you do as the County Attorney to prevent the racial disparities noted in the JRI's Annual Report from happening in your county?
I haven't seen the study but as a Prosecutor for 20+ years, Deputy Drug Czar for 8 years and Director of the National District Attorneys Association for 5 years, I can tell you that I abhor (and I would hope everyone would abhor) incarcerating anyone based upon ethnicity. I have always pledged to ensure fairness across the board and skin color, church affiliation, wealth, or any other irrelevant factor should not and cannot affect one's decisions in the criminal justice system.
Q7 Do you believe that racial disparities currently exist in your county’s criminal justice system?
Q8 Topic 3: Prosecutorial Misconduct Prosecutorial misconduct has been a concern nationally, which has led to the formation of Conviction Integrity Units in many prosecutor offices to review allegations of misconduct. Prosecutorial misconduct has also been a concern in Utah where the Board of Utah County Commissioners has considered forming a prosecutorial oversight committee.
As County Attorney, what will you do to ensure that your office is transparent and accountable to accusations of prosecutorial misconduct?
I was on several committees (with Barry Scheck, Cy Vance of Manhattan, Steven Bright, ACLU, Legal Defenders, et al.) that recommended forming these oversight committees and no prosecutor should fear oversight -- I would welcome and support oversight on every level.
Q9 Do you believe that claims of prosecutorial misconduct should be handled by an internal review board, such as a Conviction Integrity Unity?
Q10 Do you believe that claims of prosecutorial misconduct should be handled by an external review board, like the one proposed in Utah County?