TJ on VPR Morning Edition 

Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan

  • Democratic candidate
  • Town of residence: South Burlington
  • Donovan is currently Chittenden County state’s attorney.
  • Lost to Bill Sorrell in the 2012 Democratic primary for attorney general

On the opiate crisis: Donovan says it’s the “number one issue” the state is dealing with and he favors a “multi-prong approach” to addressing it with enforcement, intervention, treatment and prevention.

“Obviously if folks are selling drugs for greed or for profit, they should go to jail. But when we talk about holding people accountable, we should also [be] talking about corporate accountability, as well – the big pharmaceutical companies that put into the streets and on the market highly addictive painkilling medication, like OxyContin.”

On marijuana legalization: Donovan says he’s “a go-slow guy on marijuana legalization” and says there should be a focus on public safety with legalization. He adds marijuana legalization should be approached like alcohol.

“Anybody who has a beer when they’re out or has a glass of wine, in the back of their mind, they know what .08 means – the legal standard – and that, it collectively enhances our public safety. We need that standard for marijuana so people can make informed decisions.”

On private prisons: Donovan says “they don’t work.” He’s previously spoken out about his desire for Vermont to stop using out-of-state prisons.

“It is a basic duty of government to take care of people who are in their custody. That includes prisoners. And if we as a state say that we’re incarcerating too many people, that we need to contract with a private corporation to incarcerate Vermonters, then I say we should be looking at … how we are incarcerating people.”

On traffic stop disparities for people of color: Donovan says inherent bias exists in the criminal justice system and there need to be reforms, such as bail reform.

“It’s going to take training. It’s going to take management. It’s going to take accountability. But at the end of the day, this is about public trust in the system. This is about the integrity of the criminal justice system and trusting citizens and trusting the police to work together.”

‘Elevator pitch’ to voters: Donovan says “it’s time for a change” in this office, and adds the attorney general can be a leader on civil rights issues and work to provide environmental protection.

“I’m going to bring common sense and competence to the Office of the Attorney General. I believe in Vermonters. I believe in the trustworthiness of Vermonters. I believe in giving Vermonters an opportunity to succeed. The best way to enforce the law is to give Vermonters the opportunity to comply with it.”

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