Crime prevention main focus in state’s attorney debate

By Eric Anderson

Crime relating to juveniles, drugs, race, University students and student-athletes dominated a debate among the three candidates for Champaign County State’s Attorney Wednesday.

In preparation for the Feb. 5 Illinois primary, the University of Illinois College of Law hosted Democrats Julia Rietz, Alfred D. Ivy, III and Republican Janie Miller-Jones.

A strong stance on crime prevention has fueled his campaign, Ivy said.

Incumbent Rietz, the first female state’s attorney in Champaign County, stressed that crime prevention is a role that is not exclusive to prosecutors. Crime prevention can be served by the public taking initiative by going out into the community and educating young people on the law.

Miller-Jones cited the role of public service to teach tradesto criminals who did not receive a full formal education.

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The candidates agreed on strict drug prosecution and readily available opportunities for rehabilitation and treatment.

“I don’t want people coming in who are clearly addicts going to prison, being charged for a crack pot when they should be charged with paraphernalia,” Miller-Jones said.

Rietz added, “People who need drug treatment are having difficulty obtaining it because of the lack of resources due to funding cuts.”

The question of whether racial and socioeconomic biases exist in the county’s criminal justice system proved a crucial topic. While Ivy said 49 percent of 18,000 arrests made are black, Rietz questioned where Ivy cited the statistics from. She said the number of arrests per year is between 7,500 and 8,000.

A member of the questioning panel asked the candidates their position on prosecuting University student-athletes accused of crimes, specifically whether their treatment would differ from others charged.

Miller-Jones said athletes should be charged exactly as anyone else, but noted that there is the potential for a different resolution for the young person who chooses to be a student or engage in volunteer work.

“I think you need to call their parents,” Ivy said. “Because when you come down for school and you do that kind of knucklehead behavior, I think it’s time to take off the belt.”

Rietz said that her record “speaks for itself” in dealing with college athletes.