Published 7:39 pm Friday, October 22, 2021
Editor’s Note: The Suffolk News-Herald sent the same slate of questions to Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates Patrick Bales and Narendra Pleas. You can see the questions and their answers here. The candidates were advised that responses would not be edited, except to truncate answers at the end of the 100-word limit. Bales did not provide a photo.
Why are you running for Commonwealth’s Attorney, and what makes you qualified for the position?
I’m running because of the changes that have been made to criminal procedure. The way the Commonwealth has always done things will no longer work. Having taken away jury sentencing, we’re left with a situation where there’s no deterrent to taking a jury. For decades, the training has been to run the charge up as high as you can, and then they’ll take a plea because they’re afraid of going to a jury. We can no longer afford a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach. I have been an attorney for more than 20 years.
What would be your top three priorities if elected, and why?
- To bring that culture change referenced above to the office.
- To try to shut down the school-to-prison pipeline.
- There’s a mentor program that I want to implement to reduce the crime rate. In those 20 years, I’ve seen many times the light in a person’s eyes go out. When they lose hope, all that seems open to them is future crime. These mentors would help them learn how to obtain identification, jobs and stable housing. If we can keep them focused on their pathways to success, we can help them stop the recidivism cycle. It’s a win-win.
What are the most critical issues facing the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, and how would you address them?
The absolute most critical issue facing their office is the backlog of jury trials. It is severely backed up. Persons that are incarcerated are set for trial in December of next year; for persons that aren’t incarcerated, the year after. That culture change I referenced above where we’re actually preparing the cases with that in mind — with not only “Can I win this?” it should also be, “Should we go forward with this?” — is this something where other alternatives can address the problem. Those jury slots are precious commodities; we cannot afford to waste them.
What will you do as Commonwealth’s Attorney to find ways to address the opioid crisis?
One of the things I’ve been doing is reaching out to members of the local clergy. They are a resource that is currently untapped. We also need the right tools to do the job. When all you have is a hammer, the world starts to look like a nail. Sometimes a person who is addicted needs incarceration to clean up and get their head in a position to go forward. Some just need a detox period and then someone to help them afterwards. Don’t use a cannon to kill a mosquito; use the right tool for the job.
With Phil Ferguson having served for 44 years as the city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, what lessons do you draw from his tenure?
I’ve actually spoken with Phil Ferguson on several occasions. He has offered to make sure that if I’m the Commonwealth’s Attorney, I will be up to speed and understand all the budgetary considerations the Commonwealth’s Attorney has to deal with on a near-daily basis. He represents almost a half-century of institutional knowledge; a person would have to be a fool not to take advantage of that. His programs such as citizens’ academy and prosecutors in the schools are things I truly appreciate and want to continue. I have a great deal of respect for what he’s been able to do.