There was something really wrong. Every Monday police summon scores of Vermonters are to Court – many for failing to be the person they would like to be, others whose conflicts outweighed their resources to deal with them. They await for the Judge to assign a punishment: jail here, a fine there, a license lost here, work crew there, a disqualifying criminal record over there. Society assumed punishment would purify – it would correct. It didn’t.
It was the same week after week. Until T.J. Donovan decided to act. He lit a candle in that darkness. He started a movement for real reform of the Criminal Justice System in Vermont. One reform was a program to allow Vermonters lacking the money to pay accumulated fines to regain their driver’s licenses. TJ’s innovative driver restoration day recognized that being poor should not force a person to commit a crime, or go without work. Those unable to pay were given their driver’s license back upon payment of a small fine. That program is being taken statewide.
Another reform was to allow low-level offenders to avoid jail. TJ has encouraged them to resolve disputes by restorative justice – talking with their victims, leaning how their behavior hurt other people, thinking of others and being responsible. People with drug dependence could be treated as victims and receive medical care. People with mental health issues could be given guidance on how to address mental health issues. Some low level offenders might not even be charged or appear in Court if they took responsible action. TJ understands that giving Vermonters the resources to improve their lives leads, and care about other people, leads to greater public safety.
I support TJ for Attorney General, not because he was simply aware of these problems as many others were, but because he provided the leadership and energy to seize the tide of cries for criminal justice reform, invigorate it, shape it, and lead it on to realization. The office of Attorney General is not only about criminal law, the Attorney General has responsibility for consumer protection, giving advice and guidance to executive agencies, prosecuting fraud, and processing civil litigation to name a few of many responsibilities. Rarely in political life are we as voters given the chance to move a person who has shown leadership on one stage as State’s Attorney to another where there will be a greater scope for action and benefit to the public. This is one of those times. T. J. Donovan will make a great Attorney General, and I urge you to vote for him.
Kimberly B. Cheney
Attorney General 1973-1975