My name is Bernice Mireku-North and I'm running for State's Attorney for Montgomery County in 2022.
I'm running for State's Attorney because prosecutors have a lot of discretion as to what happens to individuals in the criminal justice system. I want to use that discretion to make our communities better and safer for all regardless of age, gender, race, or income.
Growing up in Summit Hills, families like mine expected to begin better lives than the ones they left behind. Although drugs and police presence were once a constant occurrence, my parents were undeterred in raising me and my brother in Montgomery County for better opportunities. I attended public schools and lived in Summit Hills up until I went to University of Maryland in College Park.
It was a college job in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Maryland where I knew working in the criminal justice system was exactly where I needed to be.
I graduated from Howard University Law School and served as a line prosecutor for the State of Maryland for six years before going into private practice.
As an Assistant State’s Attorney, I saw the justice system through the eyes of a daughter of working class African immigrant parents. I got to see first-hand as a prosecutor how communities were pained by the inequitable realities in our criminal justice system. And years later, not much has changed. We know that justice is not justice for all, but we've done little about it. So it's time for change.
Victims of crime need a prosecutor who will relentlessly pursue justice for them, their family, and their community. Those accused of a crime need a prosecutor who will be fair, unbiased, and keep the justice system accountable.
We need a leader with policies that promote transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system. Policies that treat juveniles like kids and not hardened adult criminals. Policies that decriminalize poverty in the justice system. Policies that work to restore communities.
Whether I'm connecting with clients, working in the community, or spending time with my family I am always thinking about how I can help make other people's lives better and safer than the day before.
That's why I'm asking you to believe in me as your next State's Attorney for Montgomery County and
This is the moment for us, to raise our voice, to say how we want to feel safe in our communities.
Families in Montgomery County are not immune from the trauma that the criminal justice system has created within our communities. The trauma has led to distrust in the system and created an urgency for leadership to restore that trust. Can we trust a system that allows the disproportionate criminalization of African Americans and Latinos in Montgomery County? Can we trust a system that fosters a 5 year old Black boy traumatized by law enforcement? The truth is, we can't.
We need a leader who can usher a fresh vision of a criminal justice system that helps bring justice to victims of crime, a leader who ensures that those accused of a crime are treated fairly and equitably, a leader who works to minimize the perpetual harm of systemic racism in our criminal justice system.
Bring transparency to our criminal justice system to hold prosecutors and police accountable to the public.Our community can't trust a system that isn't transparent. Transparency should be at the core of the values, actions, and work of the prosecutors in the State's Attorney office. Transparency yields trust in our criminal justice system and allows better accountability for police and prosecutors by: Developing public and clear criteria for which crimes the office will be prosecuting. Implementing, at a minimum, implicit bias and racial justice training for attorneys and prosecutors. Pursuing rigorous independent investigations of police-related deaths. Advocating for state laws that make it easier to hold police accountable. Establishing a Civilian Complaint Bureau to collect complaints of police misconduct.
Develop appropriate alternatives to incarceration.We must work to identify viable, transparent, and criteria-driven alternatives to mass incarceration by: Working with county agencies to support a homeless court that decriminalizes poverty for those who do not have a fixed home address. Expanding the eligibility and services offered by a mental health court, including advocating for a clean slate law for those who complete the program. Addressing the criminalization of women, LGBTQ, and the disabled in need of better access to services and resources, rather than incarceration. Developing broader needs-based assessments for defendants pre-trial to reduce the jail and home detention population as well as the use of cash bail. Advocating for transparency of pre-trial risk assessment tools to the public.
Assessing equity and exercising fairness.Once we address the root issues from better transparency and improved accountability, we can determine what is equitable and implement fairer practices in the office by: Providing equal access to justice and fair prosecution, assisted by community engagement. Expanding the review of wrongful convictions for misdemeanors and guilty pleas. Creating assistance programs for those who suffer economic loss after dismissed cases. Expanding prosecutorial discretion to deprioritize certain convictions for minor offenses (after transparency and accountability). Reevaluating the discretion to request issuance of warrants for offenses where they are not needed and no longer request cash bail. Improving focus on the prosecution of crimes that disportionately impact women and families, such as domestic violence, wage theft and rape.
Bring justice that restores and stabilizes communities.Our community has seen enough harm from the criminal justice system. Our prosecutors should play a part in reducing harm and bringing healing to victims, families, and communities by: Creating a budget that allocates more funding to witnesses and victims, including the victims of the school to prison pipeline and financial predators. Treating gun violence as a public health crisis. Prioritizing a system of youth justice that repairs the harm done to children. Collaborating with other county agencies on programs that work together to reduce crime. Ensuring that immigrants feel safe in our community and are not a target because of their nationality or color of their skin. Developing family and economic impact evaluations before sentencing in domestic violence cases to determine effects on households. Advocating for more resources for domestic violence survivors
I am proud to have a community of friends and supporters with me on this journey:
Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, Somerset
Ed and Joan King of Silver Spring
Former Takoma Park City Councilmember Rizzy Quershi
Delegate Lesley Lopez
Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins
Delegate Gabriel Acervero