Avery has spent over 24 years as a public servant working to keep our communities safe and holding those accountable for putting our communities at risk. However, Avery also believes in second chances and alternative programs to prosecution for non-violent offenses. Avery has removed financial barriers that prevented individuals from participating in deferred prosecution programs by offering free programs through the District Attorney's Office.
Driver's License Restoration/ Debt Relief Program
Currently, Avery has helped over 12,000 Guilford County residents get their driving privileges restored by requesting the court to waive unpaid fees and costs. These individuals had been without a license for a minimum of five years for minor traffic convictions. Avery believes that minor mistakes and the inability to financially pay costs should not keep residents from having a license. This helps individuals directly, and the community indirectly, by having more legal and insured drivers on the road. I was able to accomplish this despite the pandemic and constant flooding in the High Point courthouse which caused significant courthouse closures.
Misdemeanor Deferred Prosecution Program
Avery created a free alternative to prosecution program for young offenders charged with minor non-violent offenses. This requires offenders to perform community service at a non-profit organization and not reoffend. Completion of the program led to charges being dismissed. This program is free and offered through the District Attorney's Office.
Mental Health and Drug Treatment Diversion Programs
As a judge, Avery presided over Juvenile Drug Treatment Court which prioritized drug treatment over punishment. As the DA, Avery expanded qualifications for admission into these diversion programs and has continued to advocate for these programs where treatment is prioritized over punishment. With compliance of the program and no reoffending, charges can be dismissed.
Implicit Bias Training
Avery understands that implicit bias training is important for those working in the criminal justice system. She provided mandatory implicit bias training for all employees in 2020.
Second Chance Act Expungements
Avery believes in being tough on violent crime and career offenders, while still believing in helping our youth with a second chance. The Second Chance Act was passed unanimously by all republicans and democrats in the Senate. This Act removes the financial burden from defendants of having to petition the courts to have certain cases removed from their records when they have been eligible for this relief for many years. Avery, with the help of the High Point Police Department, has started the process of helping thousands of individuals get the relief for which they are eligible, but may not be able to afford.
Avery petitioned our state legislators to increase the number of staff members in the district attorney's office in both Greensboro and High Point because studies revealed that her office was grossly understaffed by 8 attorneys and 5 victim witness legal assistants. Under her administration and leadership, she has grown her office by 5 new permanent attorney positions and one victim services coordinator position. This increase in staff will help carry out her plan to handle the backlog of cases that have occurred as a result of the pandemic.
Avery believes the biggest issue facing the judicial system in Guilford County is the backlog in cases that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. During the start of the pandemic, under the direction of the Chief Justice, no jury trials were allowed for approximately one year and many of the courts were ordered closed. Then the office was extremely limited in the number of cases that were allowed to be put on the calendar to do pleas, and even more limited in the number and type of cases that were allowed to be taken to trial. Now that the Chief Justice has recommended that courts open to pre-pandemic numbers, her office can now more aggressively attack the backlog of cases. Her office has increased the number of defendants on the calendars as well as emphasizing the prosecution of homicide trials. In High Point, we have 11 homicides scheduled for trial this year and more than that in Greensboro. This plan is needed to help provide swifter justice to the victims, their families, and the accused. As was previously stated, the increase in attorneys and staff that Avery lobbied for are key to her efforts.
Law Enforcement Engagement
Under Avery's leadership, she established quarterly meetings with all heads of law enforcement where we discuss relevant issues of policing in our communities while maintaining our key objective which is keeping our communities safe from violent crime. As a result of communication and better training, total traffic stops in Greensboro decreased from 40K in 2018 to 15K in 2019.That was a positive change. She will continue to work with law enforcement to continue these positive changes.