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Pr. George's state's attorney winner hopes to replicate Calif. program

Washington Post Editors

Prince George's County state's attorney winner hopes to replicate innovative California program to cut crime

Angela Alsobrooks's vision for combating crime in Prince George's County stretches all the way to the West Coast.

Having all but locked up the state's attorney's post after her victory in Tuesday's Democratic Party primary, Alsobrooks said in a telephone interview Wednesday that her most ambitious plan involves replicating a program developed by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris.

Harris, a Democrat who became the first African American woman to become San Francisco's district attorney, is running for California attorney general and has achieved national prominence for innovative approaches to crime-fighting, including the "Back on Track" program for nonviolent, first offenders.

In its attempt to prevent repeat offenses, the "Back on Track" program gives young offenders between 18 and 24 the opportunity to channel their energy into learning skills instead of schemes, according to California media reports. After pleading guilty, the offenders attend an 18-month intensive apprenticeship program with a city college and can graduate only by staying crime-free and staying in school or keeping a job.

Although critics have questioned its effectiveness, Harris has said fewer than 10 percent of its participants have re-offended.

Alsobrooks said she believes the California approach could help break the cycle of recidivism in the District's third-largest jurisdiction by helping offenders return to their community - whose support Alsobrooks also plans to court.

"We need their engagement," said Alsobrooks, 39. Alsobrooks, a single mother who heads the county's Revenue Authority, won Tuesday's primary with 42.3 percent of the vote and the endorsements of State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, the county's police union and others.

Her closest runner-up was former County Council chairman Thomas E. Dernoga, who picked up 21.2 percent of the vote. Circuit Court Clerk Peggy Magee finished third with almost 18 percent of the vote, followed by assistant state's attorney Joseph L. Wright with 9.3 percent and Mark Spencer, inspector general of the county police, with 9.2 percent. No Republicans are running, and because the county is overwhelmingly Democratic, victory in the primary amounts to victory, period.

In the interview Wednesday, Alsobrooks said one of her first steps will be meeting with assistant county prosecutors and Ivey to assess the status and needs of the office, where she has previously served. She said she also intends to meet with the county's chief judge, other members of the judiciary, and members of the defense bar. In addition to setting up a program like Back on Track, she said she plans to take an aggressive stand against elder abuse. And she plans to recruit the best legal talent, who should be guided by elemental but important precepts.

"I expect professionalism," she said. "I expect preparation."

By Fredrick Kunkle  |  September 15, 2010; 6:49 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , Prince George's County  
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