ALBANY: Democratic candidate for Albany County District Attorney
David Soares spoke at the August Save the Pine Bush dinner
at the First Presbyterian Church. Paul Clyne, the incumbent
District Attorney who is also running, was invited by did not
SPB invited Mr. Soares because in order to save our wild
places, we must make our cities livable. Crime is one reason
choose to leave cities. Mr. Soares addressed the issue of crime
and feeling safe in his talk.
Mr. Soares began by thanking us for the opportunity to speak.
He said that he has been a prosecutor for five years, is the
father of two, and his wife is a stay-at-home mom. The world,
he said, was wonderful to him. He could have continued to ride
this gravy train, but he said, he wanted to work at a district
attorney’s office that is independent of the political
system in this town. The political system that he feels has
all but stifled the people in this town.
He wants to be a district attorney who administers one system
of justice, not two — one for the rich and one for the
not rich. For the past two and a half years, he has used innovative
techniques that get better results than the traditional system.
Traditionally, when someone is arrested for a crime, there
are three issues, one of money, probation or jail. Mr. Soares
said “You can see how easy the job becomes if those are
your only three choices. You didn’t even need human beings
to do the job.” He did that for a while and then, once
he went out on the street, he realized that what he was doing
in the court room had no impact on the community. “You
can lock up 1000 people a week or 1000 people a month, but
if the lady on Second Street can’t walk down the street
to buy a quart of milk at the store at 7 o’clock at night,
what kind of job are we doing?”
I want the efforts in the court room to match the safety that
results [in the community] from those efforts in the court
Mr. Soares put together a Community Accountability Board
which consisted of citizens from the community. Instead of
youths that came to the DA’s office to probation, he
sent them to this board. These kids for the first time had
to be accountable for their behavior; they didn’t get
to hire a lawyer that was going to do all of the talking for
them, they had to do the talking themselves. The wonderful
thing about the Community Accountability Board is there was
at least one member of the board that had some connection to
that youth. The one thing that Mr. Soares discovered about
Albany was that everybody is related to everybody else. “We
are one big family.”
Mr. Soares believes that the District Attorney’s office
should coordinate with other agencies. For example, if someone
is arrested, from the time of arraignment, to the final disposition
of the case, can take six weeks (at $105 per day in the County
Jail). If the person needs drug treatment, they have to wait
that six weeks. Mr. Soares says that this process can be expedited.
He says they do it in Red Hook Brooklyn, and we should be able
to do it here. The agencies that can help already exist, the
DA’s office just needs to connect agencies with the people
who need the help.
The war on drugs” is a lie, says Mr. Soares. The score
card is: Drug War - 17,000; the people of the State of NY -
0. Seventeen thousand people are incarcerated in New York for
non-violent drug crimes, at $32,000 a year, costing New York
1/2 billion dollars a year.
The Rockefeller Drug laws, named after Governor Nelson Rockefeller,
were passed in 1973, impose mandatory minimum sentences. Minimum
sentence for possessing 4 oz of narcotics is 15 years to life.
These drug laws target the lowest level people. Its the 17
year-old kid hanging out on Lark and Orange, who has no information,
who gets caught, not the drug king pins.
Mr. Soares supports the four-point plan for reforming the
Rockefeller Drug Laws adopted by the Real Reform coalition,
Restoring Judicial Discretion so judges can fashion just
sentences based on consideration of the particular case and,
sentence low-level offenders to community-based treatment.
Reducing Sentences to levels proportionate to those for other
non-violent crimes, and to bring New York into line with national
Expanding Drug Treatment Programs and other alternatives
to incarceration for diverted low-level offenders.
Delivering Retroactive Sentencing Relief to currently incarcerated
Rockefeller inmates serving unjustly long sentences.
Mr. Soares noted how his name is pronounced, “Its Soares,
as in the eagle.”
The primary election is Tuesday, September 14.
Printed in the September/October SPB Newsletter