Community leaders in Detroit this week are calling on Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to change the way her office prosecutes cases. They she has been too harsh on juvenile offenders and has allowed exonerated prisoners to stay behind bars.
At a press conference put on by Michigan United, speakers pointed to Davontae Sanford as a prime example. Sanford is a young man whose murder charge was dismissed after he spent nearly nine years in prison. The activists say Worthy knowingly allowed an innocent man to stay in prison for years. Worthy has defended her office's handling of the case.
Nicholas Buckingham is a community organizer in Detroit.
He says Worthy needs to reevaluate her office’s sentencing guidelines.
“Is it really necessary for a person to receive a certain amount of time for a crime, even a non-violent crime, and be placed into a system that does not rehabilitate?” Buckingham said.
Buckingham also said Worthy is contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline.
Bishop Herman Starks said he was wrongfully convicted nearly 30 years ago and served 15 years in prison. That was before Worthy became county prosecutor, but Starks said Worthy is continuing the long pattern of abuse.
“To say the least, I’m extremely upset about having experienced that. So I’m here to speak out about that. Some things need to change and need to change fast. There’s no way that 30 years later, things are still the same,” Starks said.
All five speakers touched on the importance of education. They talked about the lack of quality education in areas with heavy incarceration rates as well as the need to teach young people their rights when dealing with law enforcement.
Starks believes that it's up to community members to give young people those skills.
“A lot of these young people will get arrested and start giving away the rights they didn’t know that they had. Prosecutors know this, but they don’t seem to care when they hand these cases to the judge,” Starks said.
Kym Worthy couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. She has been the county prosecutor in Wayne County since 2004.