Jarvis Jones believes he is traditionally qualified to be the next Hennepin County Attorney.
“Do I have litigation experience? Yes,” said Jones. “Management experience? Yes.”
But what makes Jones stick out as a candidate, he says, is his ability to be a “change agent.” He said he would bring “fundamental change” to the county attorney’s office.
Jones, 63, who now primarily does pro bono work as a lawyer and makes a living through investments, said he’s directly or indirectly managed hundreds of people while working at a Fortune 300 company and has spent time in senior positions at other corporations. And he has over 30 years of litigation experience and has been the president of the Minnesota Minority Lawyers Association, the Hennepin County Bar Association and the Minnesota State Bar Association.
When Jones took over the minority lawyers association, he heard from lawyers of color who felt unwelcome in the state bar association. So he made and accomplished the goal of becoming the first Black president of Minnesota’s state bar association.
In that capacity, he made arguments before the state Supreme Court for requiring that all lawyers take ethics and bias courses, along with the other refresher courses lawyers are mandated to take every three years. He also argued for the need to make legal documents simpler to read. This way, people who are not lawyers who represent themselves can more easily understand legal forms. Today, all lawyers in the state are required to take ethics and bias training, and legal forms have been simplified.
As Hennepin County’s chief prosecutor, Jones said he’ll change the office’s approach to violent crime, particularly carjacking, treat residents fairly “regardless of what community they live in” and reform the criminal justice system in order to “reduce the footprint of mass incarceration.”
Jones said he’d uphold the “fundamental right to safe streets” and tamp down violent crime through implementing “data-driven” and “proven” approaches found in other jurisdictions, as well as targeting career criminals with stiffer penalties and focusing more on hate and bias crime, “which has picked up a lot.”
Carjacking, specifically, said Jones, can be deterred by punishing more severely adults who pay minors to carjack for them by convincing the minor that they will only have a short stay in juvenile detention and that their record will be wiped clean when they are 18.
“I see it as a form of abuse getting such young minds to engage in violent crime,” Jones said.
He is also for changing the juvenile justice system so minors who carjack are more seriously punished. “Some of them call a trip to juvenile detention ‘a trip to camp,’” Jones said. For violent crimes like carjacking with a weapon, Jones said he’d like to devise a system in which a minor’s record might not be immediately expunged upon reaching adulthood.
“I am very much a believer in holding people accountable but I also believe we’ve overcriminalized low-level, nonviolent offenses,” Jones said. He believes that people like the unhoused who are arrested for loitering and those battling drug addiction “need accountability but not criminalization,” and supports creating more diversion and incarceration alternative programs.
Jones said his top priority will be prosecuting violent crimes and fostering public safety. He said matters relating to abortion are “not a priority at all.”
“My office will not prosecute things like that. My office will also not prosecute these low-level, nonviolent drug offenses,” Jones said.