Issues: Criminal Justice Reform 

Victim rights and services have been the principal focus of TJ’s approach to prosecution, believing that the goal of the criminal justice system is to provide safety and security to the community and repair the harm done to victims so far as that is possible.  With this as the touchstone of his approach, TJ has worked to develop processes that not only deliver justice to victims, but also provide the greatest chance that offenders will not repeat the behaviors that have negative impacts on the community.

TJ is committed to advancing innovative approaches to solve difficult Criminal Justice issues.  He is acutely aware both of his obligation to protect Vermonters from predators, and of the power of the criminal justice system to marginalize people who have made a serious mistake but should not be subject to a life sentence outside society.  When dealing with lesser violations of the criminal justice system,  TJ  has worked hard to emphasize the reform goals of criminal justice in order to mitigate and minimize the traditional emphasis on the punitive aspects of the criminal justice system to make the system work for both the victim and the offender.

TJ recognizes that collective public safety is enhanced by giving people opportunities to succeed and be productive citizens. This goal requires changing the culture of the criminal justice system.  TJ believes in restorative justice and alternatives to incarceration as common sense alternatives to prevent the further deterioration of a person’s ability to function as a productive member of our society.  He led the effort to create an integrated system of public health and public safety by advocating for increased treatment capacity for addiction including pushing for more medical providers to become involved in reducing the impact of heroin abuse.

TJ has successfully advocated for a variety of innovative criminal justice policies including universal access to naloxone treatment; decriminalization of marijuana; the broadest Good Samaritan law in the country for people involved in overdose cases that call 911; increased access to medication assisted treatment; “ban the box” legislation; and greater access to needle exchanges.  All of these programs have helped reduce the harm caused by criminal activity.  TJ Donovan was among the first public officials in Vermont to focus his public advocacy on the scourge of heroin addiction in Vermont and his efforts have pushed the state to dedicate resources to address this issue.

Another concrete example of TJ’s practical approach to criminal justice is his development of the Rapid Intervention Community Court (“RICC”), an award-winning criminal justice program available to non-violent offenders whose crimes are driven by addiction or mental illness. In appropriate cases, the RICC program offers people arrested an opportunity for diversion prior to a charge ever being filed.  This pre-charge diversion program is among the most forward thinking of its kind in the country.  This program has also been effective in saving tax dollars, reducing recidivism and directing appropriate resources to the root of the underlying problems of addiction, mental health and poverty that too often lead to criminal behavior.