A Democratic candidate for attorney general has proposed a new plan to reform the state’s justice system — with help from Missourians.
“Our Missouri Justice Initiative” is a plan put forth by candidate Elad Gross. The initiative follows several guiding principles, according to Gross, including the protection of civil rights, combating racism, ensuring fairness and accountability, and empowering Missourians to use their voice within the justice system.
The project collects ideas from Missourians from all walks of life and professions to get their input on the state’s justice system and purports to use those recommendations to create a system based on their concerns and proposed solutions.
“Our Missouri Justice Initiative is opening that conversation to every Missourian so we can build a true justice system that works,” Gross told The Missouri Times. “We’ll propose a platform for Missouri law enforcement agencies to adopt, and I will implement these ideas as Missouri’s Attorney General.”
Gross says the initiative was inspired by a friend who also works in the justice system.
“I’ve been involved in fixing our justice system in Missouri for many years. I’ve been talking with law enforcement officers, public defenders, prosecutors, and community members recently, and a friend of mine involved in our justice system was so saddened by the lack of leadership,” Gross said. “She thought it would be great if we could have a statewide platform for folks to sign onto, a way to propose important changes and get buy-in, and I wanted a lot of community input into that process.”
Gross said he’s already heard many recommendations on criminal justice issues, including transparency in policing, additional education for officers, and funding for public defenders since the program began on Monday. He also said he has been critical about Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s response to the civil unrest in the wake of the death of George Floyd, caused by police officers last week in Minnesota.
“We need accountability in the entire system, no matter whether the criminal is wearing a badge or not,” Gross said. “We need to use our resources to fix our justice system; hold murderers accountable; root out racism, corruption, and injustice; and end this cycle of failed leadership ending in violence.”
Gross also announced an initiative to increase diversity in the Attorney General’s Office should he win the election. Plans in the initiative include removing certain testing barriers to internships and employment, extending more opportunities to students of all ages, paid internships, implicit bias training, increased outreach, and more.
“We need to take serious and intentional steps to end racism and inequity of opportunity,” Gross said. “The Attorney General’s Office is 93 percent white. It’s been like that for a long time. The legal profession is not accessible to a lot of minority candidates, and that’s because we have not focused on being inclusive.”
“We’re actively collecting responses, so I encourage everyone to go to www.justicemo.org and share whatever they’re thinking. We’ll take all of this input, including the work that so many wonderful groups have already done in our state and country, and come up with implementable plans and a platform for law enforcement and prosecutors to sign onto,” Gross said.