The Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America recommends its members and the Allegheny County Community vote for Turahn Jenkins for District Attorney in the May 21st Primary Election.
Incumbent District Attorney Stephen Zappala has caused irreparable damage to the people of Allegheny County, especially Black and Brown communities, who face higher rates of incarceration and a terrifying lack of justice regarding police brutality in Allegheny County.
As a direct consequence of Zappala’s work, the Allegheny County Jail imprisons more than 2,000 people, and sees upwards of 100 new arrests per day. Zappala has also chosen to prosecute sex workers, as well as those charged with so-called “crimes of existing” such as loitering, public urination, and other behaviors necessary for survival that have been criminalized under the capitalist system. If re-elected, Zappala would continue and deepen the harms faced by Allegheny County’s most marginalized residents.
If we had a District Attorney committed to rehabilitative justice, communities all across Allegheny County would see improvements in their day to day lives. A District Attorney who believes that Black lives matter and is committed to abolishing cash bail, decriminalizing sex work, holding police accountable for their crimes, refusing to cooperate with ICE, and stopping the school-to-prison pipeline could save thousands from being forced into the criminal justice system and save lives.
The Primary Election on May 21st is our opportunity to choose that District Attorney by voting for Turahn Jenkins.
In his responses to our endorsement questionnaire and during the Q&A session at our meeting, Mr. Jenkins pledged to implement a slew of policies that would reduce the criminal justice system’s destructive role in Allegheny County communities.
First and foremost, he pledges to massively reduce cash bail through a presumption of release policy. He views cash bail as “essentially criminalizing poverty.” Additionally, Turahn Jenkins plans to create a conviction review unit to identify wrongful convictions and free the innocent, and to end the practice of overcharging defendants in order to secure plea deals. He promises to never cooperate with ICE or any other immigration enforcement agency. Further, he has pledged to help unhoused people access treatment and other non-carceral services, and to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by opposing police presence in schools and favoring restorative justice initiatives in cases involving juveniles.
Turahn Jenkins is committed to the decriminalization of sex work, and promised to examine the predatory practices of the Pittsburgh PRIDE court.
Mr. Jenkins wants to expand the Citizen’s Police Review Board to be county wide, and says that he would handle cases of police brutality much differently than Zappala’s office has. Mr. Jenkins believes that no profession makes you above the law, and that being a police officer is not an exception to this rule. In regards to the recent trial of Michael Rosfeld, Mr. Jenkins has said that he would have done a number of things differently than Zappala’s office. Zappala did not try the case himself, and Mr. Jenkins said that he would have handled the case personally. He also would have called in an expert on police use of force, which Zappala’s office failed to do.
During our chapter Question & Answer session with Turahn Jenkins, many of our members expressed concern around Mr. Jenkins’ hurtful comments towards the LGBTQ+ community last year. Our members asked whether Mr. Jenkins had taken deliberate steps to educate himself around issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community, and whether he would support policies important to the LGBTQ+ community. He answered “yes” and shared with us how he has been educating himself and seeking education from the queer community. Turahn told us that he opposes conversion therapy and is committed to using his position as District Attorney to pressure Allegheny County Jail to treat LGBTQ+ people with the basic respect they deserve. This includes policies that improve the material conditions of those currently incarcerated, such as housing trans people in prisons that match their gender. Mr. Jenkins also pledged to have queer people on his staff and understands that he will be a better District Attorney with the queer community having a seat at the table.
Turahn Jenkins apologized to our LGBTQ+ members who were harmed by his remarks and actions. He acknowledged that he still has lots of learning to do and is actively working to do so. Because we know so many of Allegheny County’s LGBTQ+ community have felt torn deciding how to approach this race, we are hopeful that Turahn Jenkins will share publicly the steps he has taken to unlearn homophobia and transphobia, and the ways that as District Attorney he could reduce harm done to the LGBTQ+ community – in particular, because we believe it is important and commendable that those entrusted with power in an unjust justice system demonstrate an ability to recognize wrong in themselves and work to change, as he is doing and has done. With so much at stake for all of Allegheny County’s marginalized and oppressed communities in this election, we hope that everyone will get to hear about his commitment to justice that our membership so appreciated.
Turahn Jenkins understands well that the present criminal justice system and its old guard leadership like Zappala have undermined and incapacitated the poor and marginalized, thus sabotaging safety, solidarity, and justice. Together, his policies and stances reflect a commitment to push back against this system of criminal injustice, institutional racism, and mass incarceration. As socialists, we admire a candidate who shares these commitments with us.
Electing Turahn Jenkins is the moral choice, one that would reduce the daily and ongoing violence waged upon the people of Allegheny County by Stephen Zappala’s unjust and racist term as District Attorney, particularly for the Black community.
For the past year, our streets have seen protest after protest demanding change, demanding justice, and making clear: Stephen Zappala has got to go. We do not believe one election or a different District Attorney will bring total justice. We do believe that District Attorney Turahn Jenkins would materially improve the lives of everyone in Allegheny County, particularly those disproportionately targeted by a white supremacist police and prison system.
We strongly encourage our membership to vote for Turahn Jenkins.
We also strongly encourage them to volunteer for or otherwise support the Jenkins campaign, which they can do by clicking here.