Karen McDonald

  Oakland County

Question 1

Why are you running for prosecuting attorney in your county? What do you want to accomplish as prosecuting attorney?

Over the past twenty years, I have served Oakland County as a Circuit Court Judge (2012-2019), assistant prosecutor (1999-2004), and private practice attorney (2004-2013). I have seen firsthand that our broken criminal justice system is failing Oakland County residents—especially poor people and people of color. I stepped down from the bench in 2019 because we need a prosecutor who will actively work to end mass incarceration and implement progressive criminal justice reform that will create a fair system for all people. With my background as a judge, assistant prosecutor, and attorney, I am uniquely qualified to lead the Prosecutor’s Office in this pursuit with experience and understanding in all areas of the court.

Question 2

Do you believe that prosecutorial practices have been responsible for racial disparities in the criminal legal system?

yes
Please explain.
Despite the fact that people of color make up a small number of our nation’s population, they are grossly overrepresented in our racist, wealth-based criminal justice system. Much of that is due to biased prosecutorial practices like cash bail and unnecessary incarceration for minor drug and traffic related offenses.

Question 3

Do you pledge to take steps to eliminate racial disparities caused by prosecutor conduct in filing charges, plea bargaining and sentencing?

yes
Please explain.
More than any other elected official, prosecutors have the power to help end racial discrimination in the justice system. As prosecutor, I will implement progressive criminal justice reform that promotes equality by ending prosecutorial practices that target people of color, such as cash bail, coercive plea bargaining, and prosecution of marijuana possession and minor traffic offenses. I will also implement a Hate Crimes Unit to evaluate racially based motives behind crimes.

Question 4

Where there are longstanding patterns of significant racial disparities in arrest rates for low-level offenses, will you work with local police departments to eliminate those disparities and decline to file charges for those low-level offenses where a department is unable or unwilling to address them proactively?

yes
Please explain.
In order to create a fair and equal justice system, the county prosecutor must be willing to work together with law enforcement and other local leaders to identify where racial disparities exist and come up with smart solutions to eliminate racial bias in the charging and sentencing of low-level offenses.

Question 5

Do you believe prosecutor practices can impact the problem of mass incarceration?

yes
Please explain.
The prosecutor decides who to charge, what charges to bring, and when to drop charges entirely. When prosecutors use an outdated “tough on crime” approach to stack charges, seek maximum sentences, and fill jail cells, it directly leads to mass incarceration.

Question 6

Do you pledge to implement practices that will reduce the jail population and reduce state prison commitments by a specific percentage by the end of your first term?

yes
Please explain.
As prosecutor, I will work to reduce mass incarceration by at least 25% in my first term. To accomplish this goal, I will end pretrial practices like cash bail and coercive plea bargaining; refuse to prosecute marijuana possession and minor traffic offenses; utilize veterans, treatment, and mental health courts to address the root of crime; establish diversionary programs for low-level offenders; implement a Conviction Integrity Unit to evaluate new evidence for past convictions; give assistant prosecutors discretion to reduce or amend charges where appropriate; and hold youth accountable without unnecessary incarceration.

Question 7

Will you support marijuana expungement applications for amounts that are now legal, and support statewide legislation that creates automatic and retroactive expungement of marijuana charges?

yes
Please explain.
People should not be held accountable for marijuana possession that has now been made legal. If elected, I will not only cease prosecution of new marijuana possession charges, but also work to expunge past marijuana possession charges.

Question 8

Do you pledge to stop using prior felony convictions to automatically enhance sentences?

yes
Please explain.
Those who have already served time for felony convictions should not be forced to pay for a previous crime a second time. As prosecutor, I will only set charges related to the crime at hand, so that those affected by the criminal justice system are not overburdened by past offenses.

Question 9

Will you invest in alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness, people with substance use disorder, indigent defendants, and veterans?

yes
Please explain.
Our current prosecutor refuses to participate in veterans and treatment courts, despite the availability of treatment programs in Oakland County. As prosecutor, I will not only invest in these courts, but also establish new mental health courts to ensure that all Oakland County residents receive the treatment and resources they need to succeed.

Question 10

Do you commit to expanding diversion courts including those that address substance use disorder, mental health, juveniles, first offenders, and veterans? Are there specific diversion programs you plan to join or create?

yes
Please explain.
In addition to participating in veterans, treatment, and mental health courts, I will also establish first offender programs and diversionary programs for nonviolent, low-level offenders so that all citizens can receive the help and resources they need to avoid unnecessary incarceration and further run-ins with the justice system.

Question 11

Do you pledge to adopt policies within the jurisdiction of prosecutors from the Michigan Task Force on Jails and Pretrial Incarceration?

yes
Please explain.
As prosecutor, I will rely on the recommendations of the Michigan Task Force on Jails and Pretrial Incarceration, as well as any new, trustworthy data to strengthen and equalize the justice system and improve outcomes for those reintegrating into society.

Question 12

Will you stop recommending that judges set cash bail, and instead recommend the use of other proven tools to ensure compliance with the system?

yes
Please explain.
Cash bail does not improve outcomes for defendants, but instead disproportionately affects women, poor people, and people of color who are less likely to be able to afford bail. By not recommending judges to set cash bail, we allow those yet to be charged with a crime to get back to their families, jobs, and livelihoods as swiftly as possible.

Question 13

Do you pledge to preserve the speedy trial rights of defendants post-arrest, and dismiss cases that are delayed longer than 18 months?

yes
Please explain.
The right to a speedy trial for defendants should always be upheld, so that those who have yet to be charged with a crime and do not threaten the safety of society can get back to their daily lives as soon as possible.

Question 14

Will you pledge to not prosecute people under 18 as adults and eliminate the use of juvenile waivers into adult courts?

yes
Please explain.
As a mom, family court judge, and private practice attorney specializing in family law, I understand that children should be treated like children. As such, youth should be held accountable for crimes without facing adult punishment and unnecessary incarceration.

Question 15

Do you commit to expedite re-sentencing hearings for juveniles sentenced to life without parole, taking into account the Miller factors?

yes
Please explain.
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling to re-sentence all juvenile lifers except in very rare circumstances, our current prosecutor has deemed that nearly all of Oakland County’s juvenile lifers should spend the rest of their lives in prison for crimes they committed as children. As prosecutor, I will take the Supreme Court’s order seriously and examine all juvenile lifer cases to determine appropriate release and re-sentencing.

Question 16

Will you decline to seek life without the possibility of parole, including for any person under 18 at the time of the offense?

yes
Please explain.
As mandated by the Supreme Court, children should not face prison for the rest of their lives for offenses they committed under the age of 18. Except in extremely rare instances, I believe that all children, though they must be held accountable for crimes, deserve the chance to safely rehabilitate into society.

Question 17

Will you create a community advisory board that meets monthly and represents impacted communities including immigrant communities, formerly incarcerated communities, communities of color, and the LGBTQ+ community within the first 100 days of your term to determine the priorities of your office?

yes
Please explain.
A well-functioning prosecutor’s office listens to the community it serves. As Prosecutor, I will create a community advisory board to represent and speak for impacted and underrepresented communities in Oakland County to ensure that the needs of all community members are met.

Question 18

Do you commit to holding quarterly meetings, which are open to the public, to discuss community concerns?

yes
Please explain.
In order to properly serve their community, the prosecutor’s office must be willing to engage with the public and accept feedback from community members. In doing so, prosecutors are kept accessible and accountable to their community.

Question 19

Do you pledge to collect and post online quarterly statistical information disaggregated by race and gender on all key stages of prosecutorial decision making? For example, felony and misdemeanor charging decisions, bail decisions, declinations to charge, diversion program placements, and convictions.

yes
Please explain.
If we ever hope to address the issues of racism and inequality within the justice system, we must first acknowledge that these problems exist. Collecting and publishing data on race, gender, and convictions is the first step to making that happen, while also encouraging complete transparency in the prosecutor’s office.

Question 20

Will you create a Conviction Integrity Unit that reviews innocence claims, due process violations, corrupt law enforcement practices, and excessive sentences?

yes
Please explain.
One of my first priorities when taking office will be to create a Conviction Integrity Unit to evaluate new evidence for past convictions. Unfortunately, our justice system is far from perfect, and we must constantly review evidence that comes to light in order to make the system as just as possible.

Question 21

Will you publish all office policies and protocols online?

yes
Please explain.
As prosecutor, I will work to create a transparent, accessible, and accountable office. To do so, I will share all office policies, protocols, and information with the public whenever possible.

Question 22

Will your office hold police accountable by maintaining a list of officers who are engaged in patterns of misconduct, including racial bias, excessive force, or dishonesty, and make the list available to defense counsel and decline to call those officers as witnesses in any criminal prosecutions?

yes
Please explain.
We must hold law enforcement accountable for their behavior and refuse to allow racial bias and dishonesty to affect the outcome of a trial.

Question 23

Will your office appoint an independent investigator in all cases of police-involved shootings and make the investigation findings transparent when deciding whether to charge the officer with a crime?

yes
Please explain.
Appointing an independent investigator and making investigation findings transparent are crucial if we are to limit interdepartmental corruption and ensure that justice is done in all cases of police-involved offenses.

Question 24

Do you pledge to adopt written policy and training encouraging staff to consider the unintended immigration-related consequences of prosecutorial decisions at all stages of a case?

yes
Please explain.
If elected, my office will consider all immigration-related consequences when making prosecutorial decisions to ensure that all people affected by the criminal justice system are given the opportunity to succeed.

Question 25

Will you create a streamlined post-conviction procedure for non-citizens to limit immigration related consequences of a prior conviction, including access to pre-plea diversion programs?

yes
Please explain.
We must protect our immigrant population and strive to keep families together whenever possible. As such, I will commit to establishing a streamlined post-conviction procedure for non-citizens to help limit immigration-related consequences of past convictions.