At the two-hour Candidate Night session last week, all candidates addressed safety as being a primary concern in Sparks, but here are the views of the folks running for Sparks Justice of the Peace, Department 3:
Jessica Longley vs. Matt Lee
Longley is a third generation Sparks resident who was joined by her mother and daughter. As a public defender for nine years, she started volunteering at a young age and is currently involved with the Rotary Club and active with youth organizations. Longley says that she has a genuine love for Sparks and is running for Justice of the Peace as an extension of her community service.
With five children and one on the way, Matt Lee is all about improving safety in the city in which his family resides. “I want my kids to feel safe in any part of Sparks,” he says. He said he learned about the judicial system in an up close and personal way as a crimes prosecutor from murders down to DUIs. He volunteers with local Boy Scout Troop 796, coaches basketball, and works on the sexual assault response team.
When asked what criteria the candidate would use to oppose or approve a sentence, Lee said that it’s really a judge’s discretion on coming up with a sentence within the range that is fair and just. The range all depends on the circumstances like the victims involved and whether there were any prior convictions. Longley agreed with Lee and said that a sentence should be standard and lawful.
Longley said that the greatest obstacles to justice are people not understanding the process. When people go into court acting as their own attorneys but don’t understand the law, then it hurts the whole system. Lee followed up by saying that the law is very broad in what it does so it’s “where the rubber meets the road” and agrees that when people represent themselves without counsel it can be detrimental.
An audience member asked how the next Justice of the Peace will be able to reduce costs. Lee responded that it’s tricky because labor takes up most of the monies and as Sparks is growing more people are needed, so costs are going to go up. Longley agreed by saying, “As Matt said, the court has a budget and most of it is personnel. To help the budget as a whole, we have to try to come up with alternatives.” She added that a lot of times offenders don’t understand what is going on in their sentencing which ultimately costs taxpayers. “We need to make sure offenders are clear about what happened,” she says.
In regards to alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders, Longley says that you really have to look at effective ways in how to treat a person. Lee said that when he first started in the judicial system, there wasn’t much of a supervision program. He would like to ensure that people are getting the help they need through community services and seeking employment. “People who are employed and have a purpose don’t tend to commit crime,” he said.
The last question asked of the candidates was, “Why are there high rates of minority prosecution?” Lee responded by saying that he looks over every indictment that comes across his desk very carefully because he understands that it changes their lives. “I never know what race people are; I just look at the facts,” he says. Longley says that Washoe County has a 3 percent minority population and out of that 3 percent, 12 percent of minorities are in jail. But a lot of it is their socio-economic status- “not having the resources they need causes people to act out,” she says.