Name as it appears on the ballot: Satana Deberry
Campaign website:
Phone number: 919-695-3983
Years lived in Durham County: 18

1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the District Attorney’s Office? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?

• The office over prosecutes and

over charges

people of color – there is no acknowledgment of the racial bias in how cases are charged or brought to trial
• The office spends too much time prosecuting

low level

felonies and misdemeanors – often insufficient or insignificant cases that are the result of the

over policing

of poverty, substance abuse, and/or mental health issues
• Violent felonies often take years to get to court – which means defendants suffer in pretrial detention and victims do not get the justice and closure they need and deserve
• Too many people spend too long incarcerated pretrial in the Durham County Jail for lack of the ability to make bail
• The proliferation of fines and fees and probation costs turn

low level

cases into debt traps that people cannot escape

• Create a prosecutorial policy that focuses on keeping Durham safe rather than locking people up. This means disposing of the violent crime cases already languishing in the system and reviewing

low level

cases for diversion or dismissal
• Work with judges, law enforcement, and court officials to create new and safer diversion and citation options to avoid arrests of people who do not belong in jail. Creating new court calendar options to prioritize fairness and equity while still accomplishing the work of the court.
• Build an office staff and culture that acknowledges and is held accountable for the racial bias in the system yet remains fair and equitable. Establish an internal review and research process to report on the resolution of cases to victims and the general public.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective district attorney? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have an extensive and varied background legal background – from law practice to government service to philanthropy to social entrepreneurship. I spent several years as a criminal defense and trial attorney. However, the one thing that has remained consistent throughout my career is my involvement with the systems that impact the lives of poor people, families, communities of color and other marginalized and underrepresented groups. I have worked throughout my career to reform the systems that impact the most vulnerable people in our community. The criminal justice system intersects with all the work I’ve done and impacts resources in the community for people with serious, sometimes life-threatening, personal and legal issues. – whether it is access to housing, food


medicine, childcare or legal services.

Even more importantly, I am the black mother of black children in Durham and I have had enough of the prosecution policies that threaten the very lives of our children. Enough is enough.

3. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?

The current Durham District Attorney lacks the vision to reform a broken criminal justice system. Not only has Durham District Attorney not participated in the progressive call for

large scale

criminal justice reform, our criminal justice outcomes in Durham now are almost unchanged from 50 years ago. Pretrial detention has exploded even as the community has called for more diversion. The DA continues to over prosecute black and poor people. The incumbent continues to overcharge and use plea bargains to coerce defendants. The incumbent continues to charge children in adult court. He refuses to divert the majority of

low level

misdemeanors to drug or diversion court. Both diversion and drug court are used as rewards for defendants who can afford private counsel rather than as a common sense approach to treating substance abuse and mental health issues.

Most importantly, the office takes years to bring serious felony cases to trial. The current DA has failed to bring the most serious crimes committed in Durham County to court. There are several people in the Durham County jail who have spent more than two years awaiting trial. He has shown no concern for the toll these failures take on the rights of both victims or defendants.

4. In Philadelphia last year, voters elected a district attorney who promised far-reaching criminal-justice reforms. Perhaps most significant, he overhauled the city’s plea-bargain system to instruct prosecutors to begin offering plea deals at the low end of sentencing guidelines, and for some crimes below the bottom end of the state’s sentencing guidelines. Do you believe these types of reforms to the criminal justice system are necessary or would be beneficial in Durham? What sort of reforms would you like to see put in place?

I have publicly acknowledged that my platform and reforms have been inspired by the new Philadelphia District Attorney. These criminal justice reforms are applicable to the American justice system in general and can be put to good use everywhere. Durham is a much smaller jurisdiction than Philadelphia but faces the same problems of racial bias in the system and over prosecution and harsh sentencing of people of color.

I would like to see Durham County arrest less for misdemeanor and

low level

felonies while doing away with the current bond schedule and


discretion to judges in the most serious cases.

I would divert more cases from the court calendar, allowing the courts to focus on the most serious cases.

I would work to expand existing and create new diversion courts – especially diversion courts for victims of sex trafficking.

I would also fully support the expansion of restorative justice programs already being developed in Durham.

5. On any given day, many residents of the Durham jail are there not because they’ve been convicted of a crime but because they cannot afford their bail. What changes to the cash bail system, if any, do you support? Why? If you don’t support any changes, please explain why you think the current system is successful.

I oppose the use of cash bail in most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony cases. Most of these cases can be addressed by a citation/summons system similar to that for traffic offenses. For the small number of those cases that cannot be handled by a citation system, people should be allowed unsecured bond and given the opportunity to appear in court. There is evidence from other states that the imposition of bail does not


presence in court – it only keeps poor people incarcerated and subject to the collateral and damaging consequences of that incarceration. For people charged with violent felonies or who are a danger to the community, cash bail may still be appropriate.

6. Do you support the expanded use of citations as an alternative to arrests? Under what circumstances do you believe citations should be issued?

I support the use of citations and believe that should be used in misdemeanor cases in which there is no violence or victim – for example, misdemeanor drug possession. Many communities have successfully used citations to decrease the number and frequency of those cases that result in arrest, trial, and sentencing.

7. In terms of juvenile justice, what do you believe can be done to prevent delinquency and gang involvement?

Delinquency and gang involvement cannot be solved only in court. As DA, I would be committed to being a part of

large scale

, system-wide, multidisciplinary efforts to reduce juvenile criminal justice involvement. There are deeper societal issues that we must address as a community – access to education, mental health treatment, economic justice, and harm reduction – that are all necessary to address juvenile justice in Durham.

8. Perhaps the most controversial case the Durham County District Attorney’s Office handled in the last year was that of the activists who toppled the Confederate monument. Though the activists tore down the statue in plain view of anyone and everyone, the state was unable to secure any misdemeanor convictions. Do you believe justice was served in this matter? Looking back, how do you wish it would have been handled differently, if at all?

I will not

second guess

the judge or prosecutors in this case. They made their decisions based on whatever information they had at the time.

However, I will say that the case is an example of how the current District Attorney does very little to evaluate the sufficiency of cases before bringing them to court. In the statue cases, the defendants had the resources and access to advocacy to bring the cases to trial and have their day in court. That rarely happens for poorer misdemeanor defendants in Durham County. There is no openness and no transparency


the process of how those cases made it to court while other cases did not.

9. It has been more than a decade since North Carolina executed anyone, and there is no one who was sentenced in Durham County on death row. Do you support capital punishment? Under what circumstances would you think it proper to seek the death penalty?

There is no clearer example of racial biases, unfairness and inequity in our criminal justice system than capital punishment. I believe the people of Durham County recognize this. I do not support capital punishment.

10. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.

I strongly believe that our community is safer when we are not focused on incarcerating as many people as possible. Tough on crime policies mean we are tough on our most vulnerable citizens. We are most safe when the most vulnerable of us


also safe.