ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) – The elections are 67 days away, and one local race to keep an eye out for is the Winnebago County State’s Attorney. During a time of civil unrest and the fight for justice, the State’s Attorney is at the forefront of decision-making.
“When people talk and call on certain leaders to drop charges, you know that’s not the mayor’s job,” says J. Hanley, who is a candidate for Winnebago County State’s Attorney. “Certainly the mayor could put pressure if he or she wanted to, but ultimately that discretion relies on the State’s Attorney.”
Several protest groups are calling for dropped charges stemming from protests in May, where participants were either arrested or charged.
“Voters have to determine who do I trust to yield that discretion,” says Hanley. “People are sad, they’re angry, bewildered and all of those are of course appropriate reactions, but it’s also important to note the State’s Attorney’s office must evaluate cases without prejudice, without politics and in an unemotional way.”
Hanley will face Paul Carpenter for the role in the November election. 23 News asked how the two would handle the current climate. Both say taking a look at individual cases and examining them with justice being at the forefront is important.
“I would seek justice, every day,” says Hanley.
“Part of justice is accountability, so that’s what we’ll be looking at is whether we’re holding people accountable in a way that meets justice for our community and safety for our community,” says Carpenter, who stresses the importance of safety.
“We need to make sure we’re listening to those concerns because they’re concerns that affect a lot of members of our community,” he says. “We need to make sure everyone feels safe calling the police if the police need to be called.”
Carpenter tells 23 News one of his main focuses as State’s Attorney if elected will be reforming the criminal justice system, and finding alternatives to prison.
“There’s momentum for change, and so we need to take advantage of that and make sure that we don’t let this go to waste,” he says.
Hanley expresses that his main areas of focus would be addressing gun violence in the area, and working on mental health struggles.
“What I think the community has recognized is that it is (an issue),” says Hanley. “The State’s Attorney’s Office is going to have a large impact on where we go from here. And in 10 years we have to be able to say we’re in a far better place, we have recognized the affect mental health has on our community.”
23 News will continue to follow this race.
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