Opinion | Braden Angel: Prioritizing restorative justice, victim rights for our community
Fifth Judicial District attorney candidate
I began as an intern in the Fifth Judicial District while attending law school at the University of Denver. I was promoted to deputy district attorney before receiving my bar results, and I was honored to remain with the office for nearly six years. During my tenure, I focused heavily on the development of expertise in complex criminal cases including domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. In addition to substantial litigation experience, I developed districtwide policies and procedures on victim response, completed grant applications and reports, assisted with budgetary decisions, initiated community outreach and directly assisted with the development of restorative justice programs. These programs are currently used within our court system.
I have over 13 years of prosecution experience and over 12 years within our district. I have successfully tried dozens of cases throughout every county of our district. This is one of many important achievements that distinguishes me from my opponent. I have individually and successfully taken countless cases to trial. By contrast, my opponent became assistant district attorney having never tried a criminal jury trial.
Much of my time with the DA’s office was focused on the innovative development of restorative justice programs. At that time, treatment over incarceration was a relatively new approach to criminal justice within our jurisdiction. I prioritized ways to promote rehabilitation, treatment and upstream factors to address criminal offenses. I ensured case dispositions created a path for long-term sustainable change, not incarceration.
Similarly, I coordinated Eagle County’s Sexual Offense Resource Team, a multidisciplinary task force that not only focused on case review for sexual offenses but also promoted collaboration, education and outreach. This included multidisciplinary trainings, collaborative investigation education, and routine consultation with psychological experts to understand the presentation of trauma and maximize the task force’s ability to effectively collect and present evidence at trial. During my years coordinating the team, our model was considered a gold standard for collaborative sexual offense teams.
Since leaving the DA’s office, I have specialized in victim-centered, trauma-informed representation. Additionally, I have provided training at multiple statewide conferences on victim dynamics, domestic violence and sexual assault. My opponent believes only one attorney in the office should focus on prosecution of sexual assault and cited her office’s lack of resources as making it impossible to train multiple attorneys. This is reckless. This structure is problematic for several reasons, but one the most concerning is the devastating impact that turnover or even staff illness could have on victims of sexual violence.
My expertise lies in the prosecution of sexual offenses and domestic violence cases. I am an expert in this area and have trained hundreds of advocates and attorneys on this complex subject. Additionally, I have successfully secured multiple grants to fund victim-centered, trauma-informed programs.
It is crucial that all attorneys within a DA’s office, especially felony attorneys, be thoroughly trained on sexual assault and domestic violence dynamics. An office that does not make this a priority puts the community at risk.
I strive to do the right thing at the right time, which is why restorative justice programs are so incredibly important. While serving with the DA’s office, I was instrumental in collaborating with our judges to develop the first DUI and drug courts within the district.
Similarly, when elected, I will work with the judges to create a behavioral health court, which will operate in a similar capacity. My office will prioritize treatment over incarceration, including behavioral health and substance abuse treatment. There are significant behavioral health access/affordability challenges within our rural mountain region. However, I will actively collaborate with local behavioral health organizations, hospitals and nonprofits to identify funding to create avenues for behavioral health access. My office will strive to reduce recidivism and create sustainable long-term change through restorative justice programs.
In addition to prosecuting crime, the DA’s office has an obligation to engage in outreach, stigma reduction and community prevention efforts that ultimately reduce incidence of crime.
My office will not only effectively prosecute crime; we will create a culturally responsive, victim-centered and trauma-informed environment that prioritizes respect, competence and equity. I have implemented and fostered the growth of many of our local restorative justice programs. My record shows that I not only support the restorative justice movement but also have the experience and skills necessary to develop innovative, community-driven programs that prioritize treatment over incarceration.
Braden Angel is a candidate for Fifth Judicial District attorney.
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