November 2016 Treasure Valley Voters Guide

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Ada County Prosecutor

Incumbent: Republican Jan Bennetts Term: Four yearsSalary: $146,714Ada County is Idaho’s largest county.Population: 434,211

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    Jan Bennetts

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Biographical Information

This is your first election since being appointed. What have you done to connect with constituents and determine what they need from your office?

What are the three most important issues facing your office?

Do you approve of the steps the Legislature took this session to bolster public defense in Idaho counties? If not, what would the right approach have been?

What should counties and the legal system do to address the wave of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse seen in Idaho and across the U.S.?

What is your philosophy toward crime and the work the prosecutor does?

Have you been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a misdemeanor or felony or had a withheld judgment? If so, what, when and where?

Have you or a company you owned filed bankruptcy? If so, when and where?

Age 53
Education Willamette University College of Law, Magna Cum Laude, 1992; University of Idaho, 1989, Summa Cum Laude; Challis High School, 1985
Prior political experience Ada County Republican Women’s Club President, November 2011-November 2014; Republican Precinct Committeewoman (2012-2013); Republican Volunteer
Civic involvement Women’s and Children’s Alliance, Board of Directors (current); Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Board of Directors & Justice and Professionalism Committee (current); Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (current); Trial Advocacy Instructor Volunteer at U of I, College of Law; St. Luke’s Hospice volunteer (past); Inn of Court, Bencher (past)
Years living in Idaho I am a native Idahoan. I grew up on a ranch in Challis, Idaho and have lived in Idaho my entire life with the exception of attending law school in Salem, Oregon.
Family I have been married for 17 years and am blessed to have the support of my husband and of my friends and family.
I have engaged with constituents in a number of ways from attending or speaking at larger community events; for example, the Child Abuse Prevention Rally, MADD’s first annual National Day of Remembrance, Ada County Government Open House and the Boise Metro Chamber to smaller forums where I have connected with people on a more personal level. I have also worked diligently to build strong working relationships with other community leaders and with my criminal justice stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels. To better serve my community, I have collaborated with (and will continue to collaborate with) key stakeholders to find solutions to criminal justice issues. I will also continue my efforts to meet constituents in order to better serve my community.
First and foremost, protection of the community is always critically important as I work to serve my community each day. I am dedicated to preserving the quality of life for the community I have sworn to protect. It is an issue that drives me and motivates me, as it does my deputy prosecutors and staff. Second, as the editor recognizes in question #4, there has been a rise in heroin and prescription drug abuse nationwide and our community has not been immune from this pronounced increase. See my response to question #4 for a more thorough discussion. Third, as the criminal justice system faces technological changes, such as digital records management and law enforcement on-body videos, my office must be prepared to meet the resource challenges they present and effectively handle this ever-changing environment. Underlying each of these above issues is resource management. It is a constant challenge to manage limited resources effectively and efficiently.
Just as Idaho’s prosecutors have constitutional and statutory duties, the constitution guarantees public defense for indigent defendants. It is important that the public defense solution is tailored to address the specific needs of any given county because each county has different needs and different resources. It is essential that both prosecutors and public defenders have the tools and resources they need to fulfill their respective constitutional and statutory responsibilities.
Prosecutors must continue to work hand in hand with law enforcement to enforce drug laws with a concerted effort to identify and hold drug dealers and traffickers accountable. Drug dealing and drug trafficking erode the fabric of our community. Those who abuse drugs often commit other crimes; for example, violent crimes, theft crimes, and driving while drug impaired. In an effort to address drug crimes within our community, I have a drug unit, which is comprised of specialists on each trial team with a lead prosecutor who runs this unit. I also have a deputy prosecutor who handles the case load for all of Ada County’s problem solving courts, including the drug court cases. Additionally, last year, Ada, Canyon and Malheur Counties were designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking (HIDTA) program to facilitate the prosecution of regional drug trafficking organizations. This HIDTA program, in collaboration with my office and the United States Attorney’s Office, funded and hired a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney dedicated to prosecuting these cases. We are already seeing success as a result of this partnership.
The work of a prosecutor is first and foremost to seek justice. It is my duty and responsibility to uphold the law, hold offenders accountable and protect our community. I am dedicated to safeguarding the constitutional and statutory rights of crime victims. I work to do that in several ways. In 2015, my office was responsible for ensuring crime victims received nearly $1.8 million in restitution. Second, having ushered crime victims through the criminal justice process, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact crime has on victims. My victim-witness unit plays a critical role in supporting victims through the criminal justice process. I am also proud of the work of our courthouse dog, Sunday. Sunday’s comforting demeanor has a tremendous calming impact on vulnerable victims, especially children. Third, the work we do at Ada County’s FACES Family Justice Center is transformational. Co-location of community and criminal justice partners wraps services around our most vulnerable crime victims: child abuse, adult sexual assault, elder abuse and domestic violence. Prosecutors must react to crime, but finding ways to take a proactive approach to crime prevention is one of my goals.