By Sylvia A. Harvey, Photo: Ashleigh Reddy, The Imprint, February 24, 2022
In 2017, three months after she became the first woman and the first African American to lead the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office, Diana Becton worked to abolish juvenile justice fees that fall most heavily on low-income families of color. Since then, she has publicly released reports on officer-involved fatalities and established “Clean Slate Day” for former offenders to clear their criminal records. Her Reimagine Youth Justice Task Force is seeking alternatives to juvenile hall, a bold aim in one of the more moderate Democratic counties in the otherwise liberal San Francisco Bay Area.
Late last year, Becton, 70, sat down at her county office with The Imprint for a three-hour conversation about her career and vision for reforming the criminal justice system. With surprising candor and emotion, the DA also described how she arrived to a hostile office, managed opposition to the changes she sought, and what drives her life’s work.
“We are training attorneys not on numbers, not on trying to win at all costs,” Becton said. “We’re training them to do the right thing in every situation, and to individualize that case.”