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Sedgwick County District Attorney

District 18

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  • Marc Bennett

Biographical Information

What experiences/training in your background have prepared you to serve the different constituencies of your community?

Do you consider part of your role as District Attorney to participate in criminal justice reform in Kansas or nationally? Why or why not? What, if any, areas do you see as needing change or strengthening?

What, if any, steps would you take to reduce the number of juveniles brought into the criminal justice system? Do you see the need to address the disproportionate level of African American and Latino youth incarceration? Why or why not?

As District Attorney, what policies would you follow to handle a fatal use of force incident involving local police?

Do you support creating an option to charge low-level drug possession as a misdemeanor rather than a felony? Why or why not?

Studies show racial disparities in law enforcement. What do you see as the causes of this difference? What, if any, steps would you take to address this issue?

Personal Biography Before his election to the position of District Attorney, Marc Bennett was a Deputy District Attorney and served in the District Attorney's Office for 15 years where he supervised the prosecution of sex crimes, human trafficking, domestic violence and elder abuse. Mr. Bennett was named Kansas Prosecutor of the year in 2018.
Campaign Phone (316) 660-3000
Education Kansas State University, B.S. Washburn Law School, J.D.
Community/Public Service Board of Directors of Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center; Exploited and Missing Child Unit; the Sedgwick County Mental Health & Substance Abuse Coalition and Chair of the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission.
Address 535 N. Main Wichita, Kansas 67203
I've served 25 years as prosecutor in the state of Kansas, including 8 as the elected District Attorney in Sedgwick County, the jurisdiction with the largest city in the state. I lead an office of 55 lawyers, 70 support staff where we annually file approximately 3500 criminal cases, 1000 juvenile offender case, 600 child in need of care cases, 500 + care and treatment cases, 22,000 traffic cases and respond to hundreds of appeals.
I volunteered to be a member of the Kansas Commission on Criminal Justice Reform and was then made chair of the Commission by the membership of the Commission. Roughly 2/3 of the people who go through the system are placed on probation. The rest are convicted of crimes of violence. Folks with addiction issues, mental health issues and people who come from families stuck in a cycle of poverty where joblessness, homelessness and untreated addiction are present, have a very difficult time successfully completing probation which leads to a revolving door in the prisons. We need other options including state-supported diversion plans (which I proposed the last two legislative sessions), deferred adjudication (to require changes in behavior without the felony conviction) and "re-entry" programs for people leaving the prison.
Multiple steps have been taken including the passage of Senate Bill 367 two years ago - often to little measurable effect, depending on the jurisdiction. The same issues that face adults -- joblessness, homelessness (or shelter insecurity), access to educational opportunities, single parent households, poverty -- trickle down to the kids. If we want to divert kids away from the justice system, we need programs to divert them towards. Youth are not somehow immune to the issues that adversely effect overall minority populations. Generational inequities in wealth, education, employment have had a lasting impact on minority populations. The ability of those kids to successfully negotiate probation is, consequently, compromised. But simply lowering the consequences of crime without offering alternative programs (jobs, organized youth activities, job/ technical training opportunities) to steer kids away from that behavior, is not a sustainable approach.
As i do now. I review each case personally. I follow the law as handed down by the Kansas legislature regarding use of force in self-defense, and the stand-your-ground law passed into law several years ago as well as the Supreme Court precedent which dictates the review of these cases. If charges are to be brought, the courtroom is where the details will come out. If not, I reduce my factual and legal findings to a printed report, release it to the public through a public press conference where I also submit myself to questions from the media and then post the written findings on my web site to enhance transparency.
"Low-level" is a loaded term. Small amounts, sure--but understand that even in states where marijuana is legal, the black market has not gone away. And wherever there is a black market, the illegal sale of an illegal item for cash leads to violence. Multiple times each year, meth and marijuana sales lead to shooting deaths in this city. I am no staunch advocate for the war on drugs, but we have to make sure that when violence attends the distribution of drugs that we have a way to address it.
1000 words is insufficient to unpack this question. Decades/generations of racial inequity from the end of the civil war, through Jim Crowe, red lines, black codes (that prohibited African Americans from holding certain jobs), racist housing codes, inequitable dispersment of the GI Bill after WWII, lead to a wealth gap and depressed economies/opportunity in minority communities -- exacerbated by the decline of blue collar jobs in the 60s and 70s. Crime went up in many of these areas, which lead to a larger police presence, more arrests, more incarceration which lead to absentee parents, which lead to more problems. The DA can lobby the legislature (as I have done) to pass laws to help people successfully extricate themselves from this cycle. Ex: reduced traffic fines, and reinstatement fees for driver's licenses etc. would help. But the system is a reflection of society. Societal change and progress (access to health care, etc) are necessary to make lasting improvement.