First Black Dallas D.A. Seeks Mercy, Jobs for Criminals

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Faith Johnson, the new Dallas County district attorney and her first assistant view the people who go through the criminal court system as “lost souls or monsters.” Johnson says her job doesn’t always call for toughness; sometimes justice requires mercy, reports the Dallas Morning News. “We’re compassionate where compassion is needed. We’re merciful when mercy is needed,” she said at a community forum last night. It was the first of what Johnson says will be a quarterly forum to answer questions and explain how the local criminal justice system works.

Johnson, a Republican and former judge, was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to replace Susan Hawk, who resigned in September to focus on her mental health. Johnson, the first black woman to become Dallas County district attorney, she plans to run for the office when her term expires next year. In her first 90 days in office, she has attended more than 140 community events and meetings. She regularly takes her prosecutors to lunch to get to know them and their work. She is often first to the office and last to leave. “I have been getting only four hours sleep so I can restore the relationship between the community and the DA’s office,” Johnson said. Her top priority has been to facilitate an expungement program to clear some criminal records. The crimes must be non-violent and meet other requirements. And for the people whose crimes can’t be erased, Johnson wants to help them clear their public criminal records so they don’t have trouble getting a job or qualifying for housing. “We want them to get a job,” she said. “Share the load of the taxes.”

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