Community groups see Pamela Price win as force for change in Alameda County District Attorney’s Office

Community groups see Pamela Price win as force for change in Alameda County District Attorney's Office
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OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — Many community groups say Pamela Price’s victory in the Alameda County District Attorney’s race against veteran district attorney Terry Wiley signals big changes are coming.

“I think it really speaks to the energy and willingness of the community to reflect. How are we reimagining public safety?” says Sandy Valenciano, campaign and organizing director at the Urban Peace Movement, an advocacy group that seeks alternatives to incarceration and invests more in violence prevention programs.

Valenciano recognizes attempts to reform the current prosecutor’s office. But she adds that with Price, things can be very different.

“We think the reforms aren’t happening fast enough. And we don’t see the full benefits and the use of some of the alternatives that are being put in place,” she said.

Valenciano says Price, who will become the first African American to hold the position, promises more transparency and more community engagement.

She points to Price’s stated goals, such as ending the practice of charging youth as adults and expanding diversion programs, which are alternatives to jail. She calls these “big changes” in the criminal justice system, especially for communities of color.

“It’s a system that has unfortunately targeted black and brown communities, and so having her recognize that, I think, gives us a lot of hope as we think about how we move away from those punitive systems and we let’s really attack public safety,” Valenciano said. .

Saabir Lockett is Deputy Director of Policy Engagement at the East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economies, or EBASE. It is a grassroots labor organization that, in part, fights for low-wage workers. He too is encouraged by Price’s victory.

“Terry Wiley and Pamela Price might have a similar platform, but the difference is that Pamela comes with new ideas — ‘outside the box’ thinking,” Lockett said.

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He says Price’s proposals for greater police accountability, enforcement of workers’ rights and lower recidivism rates are the kinds of reforms many hope the new district attorney can implement.

“The DA even has a lot of power to convict. So now there are opportunities for diversion programs and mental health programs,” Lockett said.

Across the bay, in the city and county of San Francisco, voters had similar ideas for criminal justice reform. But then their newly elected progressive district attorney, Chesa Boudin, was ousted in a recall election in June.

MORE: Alameda Co. voters will make history by electing 1st Black DA: Here are the candidates’ positions on the issues

According to Lockett, the fact that the award won a few months later on a comparable progressive platform shows voters in Alameda County want a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform.

“The whole ‘lock them up, lock them up, lock them up, more police, more police’ is really just a retrospective because, ultimately, you can have 100 police every around the corner and someone is just gonna commit a crime in a different place. The root causes (are) poverty and disinvestment,” Lockett said.

After his victory, Price Tweeter“My administration will begin an era of change that will ultimately make us stronger and more secure.”

She takes office in January.

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