Natalia's Priorities

The success of the prosecutor’s office should be measured by more than just conviction rates. Public safety requires effective measurements to evaluate how we protect the community, serve victims, restore offenders, and collaborate with the community to address serious crime.

Transparency is key to ensuring that the prosecutor’s office is accountable to the public and maintains office integrity. Sharing data will help the public to understand our decision-making process, the constraints of the office, and how decisions of the office link to larger outcomes of public safety and equity in justice.

For many citizens, the prosecutor’s office seems to act in a vacuum, which adds to the ongoing distrust many citizens have towards the justice system. The collection and sharing of data can help the public to understand the role of prosecutors and our role as a community in maintaining public safety.

The primary purpose of bail is to make sure people show up to trial – not to punish someone for a crime for which they have only been charged and not found guilty. Once in office, I would change the current bail policies of the office that disregards the fact that we are all presumed innocent under the law until the prosecutor does their job and proves someone is guilty as charged. We cannot expect people to follow the law when those with the power to enforce those laws violate the basic principles upon which the criminal justice system rests.

Incarceration is not always the answer for criminal offenses. There are situations where a crime is committed, but jail or prison may not be the appropriate punishment and may not contribute to an offender’s ability to live a more productive life and not reoffend. While the prosecutor’s office currently has a pretrial diversion and may pursue alternative sentencing options, the programs can be better aligned with best practices so that offenders are better positioned to become employed and meet their basic needs.

We have an obligation to reduce costs to taxpayers by addressing the cycle of arrest, incarceration, and re-arrest by implementing a structure that helps to break the cycle. This means working in conjunction with Franklin County’s Drug Court to actively streamline those cases eligible to move through the three phase program. This will allow low-risk non-violent offenders to be held accountable while also improving their health through alternatives to incarceration and ensuring the safety of our communities.

In 2022, Franklin County developed a mental health court named “Reaching Individual Success Everyday” (RISE) Program to specialize in dockets that offers targeted treatment for moderate to high-risk, felony offenders who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness which was a primary factor leading to their involvement with the criminal justice system. The prosecutor’s office can work on the front end to identify eligible cases to better streamline the process for those suffering with mental illness and substance abuse.

We want to make sure that we are detaining people for the right reasons prior to trial and we want to ensure that actions of the office are consistent, fair, and efficient during the pretrial process. In being mindful of the cases that should be prosecuted or diverted to alternative programs, we create a structure that streamlines an existing process that alleviates strains of the court system and maintains justice and public safety.

There must be a strong full commitment from the prosecutor’s office to look at how the office has contributed to mass incarceration and racial disparity within the justice system. Revamping the Conviction Integrity Unit moves us closer to this goal. As we look at the areas of measurement stated above (collecting data, community interaction, case prioritization, streamlining processes), we can begin to change practices and impact outcomes.

We have to be able to balance holding youth accountable, meeting their developmental needs, maintaining public safety, and providing rehabilitation services. We also need to acknowledge the disparities of race that exist regarding who is charged and how. Juveniles should not be housed in adult facilities, especially given the recent Columbus Dispatch report regarding juvenile detention facilities and the harm that awaits children in adult facilities. When youth offenders commit serious crimes, it is preferable that they be housed in youth facilities, but as reported, these also need to be fixed. The office can be an advocate for additional funding so that facilities have proper staffing to ensure the safety of staff and juveniles housed there.

We have to be able to balance holding youth accountable, meeting their developmental needs, maintaining public safety, and providing rehabilitation services. We also need to acknowledge the disparities of race that exist regarding who is charged and how. Juveniles should not be housed in adult facilities, especially given the recent Columbus Dispatch report regarding juvenile detention facilities and the harm that awaits children in adult facilities. When youth offenders commit serious crimes, it is preferable that they be housed in youth facilities, but as reported, these also need to be fixed. The office can be an advocate for additional funding so that facilities have proper staffing to ensure the safety of staff and juveniles housed there.