ALAMOSA — Attorney General candidate Michael Dougherty is maintaining a presence in the San Luis Valley during his campaign and plans to locate an office here if elected.
“I am committed to opening a regional office in the San Luis Valley and the West Slope,” Dougherty said in a visit to Alamosa on Thursday. “I strongly believe we should have staff living and working in the communities they are sworn to serve.”
A major local concern, which he is passionate about as well, is the drug epidemic.
“I think we need to provide more resources to the local communities to help them with that,” he said.
He commended the local community for collaborating to develop innovative ways of addressing the drug problem short of incarceration, such as the recently approved Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, a pre-booking diversion program that will assist low-level drug offenders with services to keep them out of the criminal justice system. Dougherty visited the Center for Restorative Programs (CRP), a key partner in the LEAD program, and was impressed with the service CRP provides already and will be expanding through LEAD.
He said the state should be supporting local communities in these efforts.
“People shouldn’t have to hit the doors of the courthouse to get the treatment they need,” he said.
He added that progress in the opioid epidemic must also include the medical and pharmaceutical community to reduce prescription drug use. He referred to the 50,000 deaths from overdoses in the U.S. last year and said two-thirds of them had lawful prescriptions.
“This isn’t back street dealing. This is people who have prescriptions for the drugs,” he said. “We need doctors to help people get the painkillers they need without giving them recipes for overdosing. It starts there.”
Other solutions include funding for treatment and drug court, which is experiencing success locally and throughout the state.
“We all have a stake in this,” he said. Drug addiction often drives property crimes, as people commit thefts to sustain their addictions, he said. That affects everyone.
Dougherty has been a prosecutor for 20 years and is currently serving in the Jefferson and Gilpin Counties’ district attorney’s office. He previously served in the Colorado Attorney General’s office and is running as a Democrat for that post.
He believes in preventive efforts to keep people from being incarcerated and from going back to prison once they are released.
Colorado’s rate for inmates going back to prison within three years after being released is 48 percent, which does not include those who might be re-incarcerated outside of the state or wind up in local jails.
“To me that number is a stark failure for obviously the offenders, for future victims and the community.”
Dougherty would also like to eliminate the three private prisons in Colorado, which he believes concentrate on profit rather than treatment.
Other issues about which Dougherty is passionate include consumer protection and re-establishing a Conviction Integrity Unit, which was what brought him to Colorado. He established the unit in the AG’s office, which has since been dissolved and which he would like to re-establish. The unit considers cases of those who might have been incorrectly convicted.
Regarding consumer protection, Dougherty emphasized the need for educating residents, especially vulnerable populations such as senior citizens. Some scams currently tripping people up are people calling claiming to be from the IRS and wanting money and the Airbnb scam where people believe they have booked a room for the night only to show up and find that a scammer took their money and there was no room.
It is difficult to track these fraudsters down, Dougherty said, so education is important to prevent people from being taken in.
View more of Dougherty’s positions at MichaelForAG.com