March 13, 2020

Do you know what your district attorney does? Where does your impression of a prosecutor come from? Television and movies? Social media? News clips and soundbites?

You might not have the full story.

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There is a lot of buzz these days about the criminal justice system and the role prosecutors play in it. What isn’t heard often enough is everything your local district attorney does to make communities safer and the criminal justice system better.  To help connect Pennsylvanians with their district attorneys and share the stories of innovation and outreach that are keeping communities safe and improving the system, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association developed MyDistrictAttorneyPA.com.  Its pages will serve as a resource for who we are, what we do, where we stand and what we are saying.

A modern-day district attorney’s role extends well beyond prosecuting criminals. Today, a big part of the job of district attorney is to promote public safety and engage in community outreach efforts in order to address the underlying causes of crime. District attorneys support victims of crime and remain firmly committed to seeking fair and equal justice for everyone, including criminal defendants.  When the system isn’t working, it is often the district attorney who speaks up, reaches out and seeks to make smart and balanced improvements.

DAs know their communities’ challenges and collaborate with residents, business, schools, neighborhoods and community organizers to develop responses to crime and initiatives to enhance public safety.  They educate kids about internet safety, lead safe school coalitions to protect students, participate in task forces to address substance abuse disorder and the need for drug treatment, and help lead outreach to make the public aware of issue related to elder abuse, neglect and financial crimes.

As leaders in their communities, district attorneys are also forward-thinking stewards of the criminal justice system. Throughout the state there are examples of innovation by district attorneys who helped design pre-trial diversion programs and problem-solving courts that simultaneously increase treatment and decrease the prison population, support probation reforms, and helped improve the investigation of child abuse by supporting child advocacy centers. With the support of district attorneys, 98% of Pennsylvania’s population is now within a 60-minute drive of a CAC.

District Attorney Raymond Tonkin

PDAA President Ray Tonkin, Pike County District Attorney

Through the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, district attorneys have worked together to be leaders in making meaningful improvements to the system. We have worked on and supported legislation that permitted and encouraged officers to wear body worn cameras, increased efficiencies in how our system handles lower level offenders and re-invested those savings back into the system. We worked to improve civil forfeiture laws and we were leaders in helping to enact the first-in-the-country Clean Slate legislation that seals the criminal records of lower level offenders so that their records do not prevent them from obtaining employment.  And we have worked to eliminate many instances of driver’s license suspension for crimes not involving vehicles.

The job of district attorney is a serious one and the results of a DAs work can be seen in their communities. The DAs we work with are dedicated public servants, committed to their communities, dedicated to the law and believe in public policy grounded in common sense.  I invite you to learn more about your DA and what is going on around the commonwealth.  It’s more than you think! www.MyDistrictAttorneyPA.com

Raymond Tonkin is currently President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and serves as the District Attorney of Pike County.  He can be reached at daoffice@pikepa.org