While jury trials were put on hold because of the pandemic, new Douglas County District Attorney E. Dalia Racine was busy making changes to her department.
Earlier this week, Racine hit the 100-day milestone since taking office.
During her first 100 days, she spent time establishing two new units, enhancing the Special Victims Unit and Juvenile Unit, in addition to “improving” training for prosecutors and investigators.
The Racine administration established the Pre-Charging Unit (PCU) and the Programs, Accountability & Community Engagement (PACE).
“We are streamlining how we handle new cases, and dedicating resources to more efficiently direct less serious cases to pre-trial diversion or accountability courts, and prioritizing more serious cases for trial,” Racine said in a statement.
According to a press release from the DA office, the PCU gathers evidence as soon as a new case is opened and prepares a packet of evidence to deliver to defendants and their attorneys much earlier in the process than before.
Additionally, the assistant district attorney assigned to PCU evaluates every new case and determines whether it should go to pre-trial diversion; to an Accountability Court like drug court, HOPE court for defendants with mental health issues, DUI court, or veteran’s court; or whether it should be prioritized for trial division, which is responsible for jury trials.
PACE will administer the DA office’s pretrial diversion and accountability courts programs.
“By prioritizing helping people in our community with addiction and mental illnesses, we set them up for success and to avoid re-offending,” Racine said.
In the SVU, Racine’s office will assign one prosecutor in each of the three superior courts to handle cases with the support of a specially-tasked investigator, two victim advocate and a paralegal.
“SVU cases are some of the most complex and emotionally taxing cases for prosecutors and investigators to handle, and by specially training and tasking our staff to handle these cases, we ensure that the cases and the victims receive the most specialized attention of all of our cases,” Racine said.
According to the release, the DA’s office has fully staffed the juvenile unit and has centered its mission on interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline.
“The juvenile unit works to divert juveniles from the criminal justice system by sending them to pre-trial diversion programs and integrating an SB440 review process (where juveniles are charged as adults) to ensure best outcomes,” the release stated.
According to the DA office, the improved training for prosecutors and staff includes developing an intern/apprentice program with the state’s law schools.
“The first 100 days of my administration has been amazing,” Racine said. “Our prosecutors and staff have pulled together to re-center the mission of this office to serve the community and victims of crime. This is just the beginning for our office, we are dedicated to improving community relations and working with our law enforcement partners to reduce crime and keep our community safe.
“We are committed to forward progress and are excited about our future data collection, community advisory board, and website projects, to name a few. Our team has been working tirelessly to continue to give our best to serve the citizens of Douglas County. We are working to fulfill our vision and values while keeping truth, justice, and our community at the forefront of all that the office does.”