By Santura Pegram
(DD) – My name is Dameka Davis and I am a community advocate and attorney. I am originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, but the practice of law brought me to South Florida. I have always seen myself representing people (of any/all backgrounds) in some capacity. I always tell people that the “law came to me; I never came to it.” As a child of a teenage mother who became a convicted felon, I saw firsthand how our representatives often neglect our communities. This neglect of communities was the only motivation that I needed to run for office. Everyone deserves to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling life. So, every voter should be asking the same question to those individuals who they voted for in past elections that singer Janet Jackson proposed, “What have you done for me lately?” If you’re struggling and at a loss for what to do when you need government to work for you but discover it hasn’t or doesn’t, then your representative(s) has already given their answer to you. Unfortunately, our current leadership is not meeting the needs of ordinary citizens.
(SP) – Seemingly, many of today’s elected officials continue to ignore the suggestions of economists who have sounded the alarm that communities across the country are facing a potential recession due to a widening budget deficit. Coincidentally, researchers have proven there is a direct link between socioeconomic disadvantaged individuals and crime. It is also believed that “over 90% of crime in America and around the world takes place due to economic disadvantages and the remaining percentage involves mental illness, social disagreements, and/or other miscellaneous reasons.” If those precipitating factors are true, why have more prosecutors, court systems, and policymakers not taken these seriously and opted to explore better strategies and proven solutions which reinforce teaching positive behavior change and empowering people – economically, mentally, socially, and otherwise?
(DD) – The truth is, people that are closest to the problems are closest to the solutions. Our systems do not reflect the people that they serve. Most of our current leadership has never felt the ‘pinch’ of living from check to check or having to decide between eating and putting gas in his/her car to make it to work. Simply put, representation matters. We have to have a system that is inclusive and diverse to reflect the people and most importantly, serve the people.
(SP) – The public has grown tired of seeing increasing numbers of politicians (especially incumbents) who have been voted into office in past elections ultimately turn their backs on citizens once they’re elected, use partisan politics as an excuse for not accomplishing tangible things to improve neighborhoods-communities by squandering their time in office, and fail (or refuse) to be a problem-solver as they were expected to be once elected. What makes you the best choice for people to vote for this year as the Broward County Commission – District 6 candidate, and what strengths do you possess that would be more beneficial to citizens than those professed by the current Broward County Commission – District 6 seat holder?
(DD) – I was a mother, attorney, business owner, and advocate prior to the announcement of my candidacy and I continue to be all of that. I am a first-time candidate running for office and if elected, I will be the first woman of color to hold this seat. Both professionally and personally, I have lacked resources yet came up with solutions with the collaboration of others to help me. The strongest asset that I can bring to the people of District 6 is that I am you. I reflect you. I have made it from nothing and turned my life and the lives of others around with little to no assistance. Simply put, my legal acumen, business prowess, no-nonsense work ethic, life experiences, and willingness to tackle problems head-on make me the best candidate for this position.
(SP) – More professionals in the areas of law and government are beginning to embrace the ideas of “criminal justice & prosecutorial reform visionaries” like Larry Krasner of Philadelphia; Rachael Rollins of Suffolk County, Massachusetts; Diana Becton of Contra Costa County, California; Jonathan Rapping of Atlanta, Georgia; Professor Jody D. Armour from the USC School of Law; Judge Bruce Morrow of Michigan, Dr. Jennifer Cobbina-Dungy of Michigan State University, and the HOPE for Prisoners program in Nevada. Could you share your thoughts on some of the unique concepts any of them have implemented and how you might propose such growing trends that have the potential to decrease recidivism and create new streams of tax revenue to help improve Broward County?
(DD) – I am a former prosecutor and now criminal defense attorney in Broward County. Undoubtedly, we can take a more progressive approach on criminal justice reform. At the outset, we must tackle the school-to-prison pipeline that sends many of our children on a one-way path to prison. Implementing needs-specific, wraparound social services and creating more applicable curriculums for children that better prepare them for life after graduation from high school no doubt should be among the tools for combating criminal justice reform.
As a criminal defense attorney, I can attest that when we have mental health counselors in schools instead of police officers, our children are better served. When our children are not in school, it makes them more susceptible to entering the criminal justice system. I credit God and my education for my success, and I know that had it not been for both, I would not have made it this far.
Secondly, as a former Innocence Project student, I must inform you that wrongful convictions do exist. Our police officers must get proper training on what rises to the level of an arrest. Officers also need implicit bias training and more relationship building with the community in which it serves. We must also vote in every election and make certain that the people in positions leading our criminal justice system share more progressive views on criminal justice. When I was fortunate to be a part of the Innocence Project, our team was responsible for helping to free innocent people that spent years incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit, and which racial discrimination and bias were the catalysts for their erroneous arrests and flawed convictions.
Lastly, as a criminal defense attorney and someone who is known for having grassroots relationships with members of the community, I know firsthand what often equates to ‘lifetime’ limitations that are placed on people convicted of crimes. The truth is that almost all people that are arrested for a crime and sentenced to confinement will almost always return back to society at some point in time. We must create opportunities for convicted felons to not recidivate through more meaningful life-improving employment training and placement, affordable housing, education assistance, social services, and abolishing voter suppression and disenfranchisement in order to transform ex-offenders into legitimate working-class, tax-paying, home and/or property owners whose taxable income and crime-free lifestyles can help alleviate some of the burden upon other residents and government systems.
*Santura Pegram (email@example.com) is a freelance writer and socially conscious business consultant who has helped to advise small businesses; nonprofit organizations; city, county, and state governmental committees; elected officials; professional athletes; and school systems.
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