The Swarthmorean asked five questions of the major party candidates for District Attorney in the November 5 general election. Following are the responses from the Republican incumbent Katayoun Copeland.
Kat Copeland - Republican
What is your position on changes in the future operation of George W Hill correctional facility?
While the operations of the prison do not fall under the jurisdiction of the District Attorney’s Office, as the chief law enforcement officer my primary concerns regarding the prison are that the facility is secure, that there is transparency and accountability, and that the prison continues to provide and build upon the existing rehabilitative services it makes available to prisoners that help to reduce recidivism, improve the ability of prisoners to obtain jobs upon release, and assist individuals in overcoming addiction. I support the recent decision to replace the longstanding Board of Prison Inspectors with a new Jail Oversight Board to increase and diversify representation from community stakeholders.
Do you favor any changes to the current cash bail systems in use in PA?
When California approved the repeal of the cash bail system, it put in place a risk assessment process using various data points to calculate the likelihood the person will return for trial. If someone doesn’t pass the algorithm, they are held in prison until their first court hearing with no option for release. Some reformers compared it to the film “Minority Report,” underscoring the fact that there is no easy solution to bail reform. With that in mind, I support legislation to create an Adult Probation/Parole Advisory Committee to help counties assess the unique needs of probationers and reduce recidivism. Judges could also make cash bail a requirement for non-violent offenders only if the individual fails to appear for their first court appearance.
What can the DA’s office do to protect seniors from crime?
This is one of several areas that distinguish me from my opponent. During my 25 year career, I have prosecuted more than 4,000 cases ranging from violent drug gangs to murderers. I have personally prosecuted criminals who committed financial and physical abuse of seniors. My opponent, in contrast, tried only one jury trial during his time as an Assistant District Attorney. The individual was found not guilty. When it comes to protecting our seniors — and all of the citizens of our county — experience matters. In addition, the Senior Exploitation Unit and I work to proactively educate seniors and their families on how to protect themselves from both fraud and abuse.
Do you favor any restrictions on use or ownership of, or controls on access to firearms?
Absolutely. Last year I joined advocates in calling for passage of legislation to protect domestic abuse victims by requiring individuals with protection-from-abuse orders against them to turn over their guns to local law enforcement. I have called for gun control reforms such as universal background checks, banning of bump stocks, and closing a loophole that allows criminals to possess a gun. I have also called for the passage of “Red Flag” Legislation and Extreme Risk Protection Orders that allow law enforcement or concerned family members to ask a judge to temporarily stop someone from possessing a gun if there is evidence that they are a threat to themselves or others.
Would you support decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana for personal use?
My role as District Attorney is to enforce the law as approved by the legislature. I have seen a number of conflicting studies from both sides on this issue. Given that Pennsylvania only recently enacted a medical marijuana law, I believe it would be wise for legislators to carefully evaluate the results of that program, as well as some of the data from states that have legalized recreational marijuana before rushing into any major overhauls of the state’s drug policies.