Ray Szwabowski, a candidate for Charlottesville commonwealth’s attorney, outlined his platform during a Facebook Live event Wednesday.
Szwabowski, a defense attorney for the Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Defender Office, announced his candidacy for the city’s top prosecutor position in December. He will face off against current Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania in a June Democratic primary.
During Wednesday’s event, Szwabowski spent much of the time discussing how, if elected, he would not prosecute felony drug possession and instead direct people toward treatment options.
Specifically, Szwabowski said he would establish a misdemeanor drug court program, because, under the current drug court program and law, only people charged with felonies are eligible.
“Drug possession is a symptom of an illness, and that illness is addiction,” he said. “It’s a health problem and we need to address it as a health problem. It doesn’t work to put people in jail and not to give them treatment, which is what the status quo is in Charlottesville in so many of these cases.”
Such a program would require approval from the state General Assembly, for which Szwabowski said he would advocate.
Another facet of Szwabowski’s platform is ending the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which he said is leading to too many juveniles with felony charges.
To end this trend, Szwabowski said he would emulate a program used in Fairfax County, which uses redirection methods and centers around efforts for the charged juvenile to repair harm.
“Restorative justice in particular is an interesting model to use on juveniles because restorative justice kind of flips the script,” he said. “Instead of having the juvenile as the protagonist in the story, it centers the victim in the story and sees what the victim wants to be made whole.”
Other parts of Szwabowski’s platform can be found on his website, rayforca.com, and include establishing a community advisory group and working with groups such as the Innocence Project to re-examine past sentences.
The Democratic primary is June 8.