Both city prosecutor candidates said they would pursue changes to the office to make it more efficient, if elected April 2.
During Tuesday's News Tribune candidate forum, candidate Scott Evans said his top change would be to improve accessibility of the city prosecutor. Currently, residents and attorneys can speak with the city prosecutor on Wednesdays during court sessions, according to the city's website.
"This is a part-time job but that doesn't mean it's part-time hours," Evans said. "Right now, there seems like there's availability one day a week and I don't think that fits for everybody. There may be a citizen that needs to speak with the prosecutor but they work every Wednesday from 8 (a.m.) to 6 (p.m.) and they don't have the opportunity to have that conversation."
Candidate Gaylin Carver said municipal court currently sets aside a day where defendants can appear and ask for more time to pay their fines.
"We need to figure out some kind of program or way so we don't have to keep people coming in and saying, 'I need another 30 days,'" Carver said, adding she was not sure how to solve this situation without researching it further.
The candidates also said they would consider alternative penalties instead of fines or jail time when punishing minor offenses, on a case-by-case basis.
While community service is the "easy answer" to penalize minor offenses instead of fines or jail time, Evans said, the punishment should be "more meaningful."
"If they stole from Goodwill, let's do some community service at Goodwill," he said. "Let's go in and learn about the people and the business you stole from. Let's learn how this affected the other people who work there and how this affected the people that you didn't even realize you were affecting. Let's make this more meaningful."
The municipal court could also look at victim impact panels, Evans said, which would allow defendants to hear from those impacted by crimes. For example, someone who was drinking while intoxicated, they could hear from individuals who were impacted by DWIs.
Carver said community service is a clear alternative. However, the city prosecutor could also pursue deferrals, also known as deferred prosecutor agreements, especially for "youthful, first-time offenders," she added.
The defendant and city prosecutor would sign this agreement, where the defendant admits he or she committed a crime but the city prosecutor will not file the charges as long as the defendant follows the guidelines outlined in the agreement. Those stipulations could include not committing a crime for a year or two, along with doing community service or going to counseling.
If the defendant breaks the agreement, Carver said, the city prosecutor could re-file the charges.
"If (the defendant) enters into this agreement, the (charge) goes away like it never happened. It's gone," she said. "It gives them a second chance but it says, 'If you do commit this crime within the next two years, then I get to refile the case.' It's sort of like a hammer or a stick to make sure they're not going to re-offend but it also gets them some kind of community service in exchange for not having the case filed."