Meet Jarvis Jones
“Why I am Running for Office”
I am running for Hennepin County Attorney because I believe that Minnesota can still be that shining city on the hill. If we choose, Hennepin County can be a model for counties across the country and can be an example of how to reform our criminal justice system the right way. Job #1 is keeping our streets safe…in ALL neighborhoods. While, at the very same time, we must collectively ensure that all residents of Hennepin County are treated “fairly and equally” and with dignity and respect.
Like some of our residents living in more troubled neighborhoods in Hennepin County, I know personally what it means for a child to grow up in a troubled neighborhood, to feel “forgotten”, and to be repeatedly told: “that’s just the way it is!” I was born on the South Side of Chicago in the Englewood neighborhood (aka, the “murder capital of Chicago”). I know first-hand what it means to receive a call that your closest childhood friend and his girlfriend have been brutally murdered in their apartment – while their 4-year-old hid in a closet – from an attempted gang-related drug robbery gone bad.
I have also experienced first-hand both sides of law enforcement. I have been questioned and stopped many times simply for “driving while black” and, at times, have been treated by police as a “suspect” first until I proved I was innocent. On the other hand, I have also witnessed first-hand – through the eyes of my brother and sister as former police officers in the inner-city of Chicago – that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are simply trying to keep us safe and go home safely to their families.
In some troubled neighborhoods, many of our young people have given up on themselves and, unfortunately, many of us have unconsciously given up on them also. I have not! While I am a strong believer in accountability for all, I am not willing to give up on our future without a good fight.
I personally understand what it means for a young person to be repeatedly told to “forget about it.” I was told by a high school counselor that I should “set my sights elsewhere” instead of thinking about becoming a lawyer; I was told to forget about going to St. Olaf College; I was told to forget about becoming the first African-American President of the Hennepin County Bar Association; I was told to forget about becoming the first African-American President of the Minnesota State Bar Association; and, I was told to forget about trying to get the Minnesota Supreme Court to require all lawyers in the state to take classes every three years on “Ethics” and “Eliminating Bias” in the legal profession.
But I didn’t “forget about it.” Ever since proving the doubters wrong, I have never looked back and have professionally and personally challenged the status quo and the notion that “that’s just the way it is!” I strongly believe that we can take back our streets, our neighborhoods, and the downtown Minneapolis area, while at the very same time, treating all residents in Hennepin County equally, fairly, and with dignity and respect… in ALL neighborhoods.
I believe that through community engagement – as bridgebuilders – we can come together to make meaningful changes by genuinely making a good faith outreach to all of our neighborhoods, especially those troubled by significant violence and serious crime. Collectively, as one community, we must make a concerted effort to build and earn the trust of those residents in Hennepin County who do not feel that our justice system also “serves and protects” them and their neighborhoods.
As Hennepin County Attorney I will partner, in good faith, with key stakeholders* in the criminal justice system in Hennepin County – including the public defender’s office, social activists, the judiciary, faith leaders, police chiefs, community leaders, and local elected officials – to reform our system so that it truly makes us safer and is fairer to all…in EVERY neighborhood.
Jarvis is a family man, who has been married 27 years to his bride Laura Kaplan. Their son Taylor is a graduate of The Blake School in Hopkins and is now a graduating senior at Elon University in North Carolina, where he is majoring in Political Science and Social Justice. The Jones’ fourth family member is a 12-year-old goldendoodle that Taylor named Lucky.
*Key Stakeholders in the criminal justice system include the prosecutor’s office, public defender’s office, criminal defense attorneys, law enforcement, police chiefs, the judiciary, correction personnel, parole/probate officers, social services, mayors, city manager, council members, state legislators, businesses, community-based group, faith leaders, and other criminal justice-related groups and services.
Video produced by Parmley Productions LLC
“MY PLEDGE IS TO WAKE UP EVERY MORNING LASER FOCUSED ON MAKING OUR NEIGHBORHOODS SAFER AND FAIR FOR EVERYONE!”
We must end two systems of justice
I believe that Job # 1 for the Hennepin County Attorney is to protect and serve our community from those who would challenge common decency and our way of life here in Minnesota. I view it as a fundamental right for all residents to feel and be safe in their homes…in ALL neighborhoods.
If elected, my solemn pledge to ALL Hennepin County residents is a simple one: I will wake up every morning laser-focused on making all of Hennepin County’s neighborhoods safer, while, at the same time, working to ensure that all Hennepin County residents are treated “equally and fairly” and with dignity and respect.
It is time to come together as One community – as “Bridgebuilders” – to make sure that Justice for ALL is more than just a nice slogan. We must make sure that justice for all and safe streets becomes a dual reality…in ALL neighborhoods – regardless of whether you are a resident of Edina, Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, or Brooklyn Park.
Minnesota Supreme Court’s Racial Bias Task Chair, Associate Justice Rosalie E. Wahl summed up well what we must continue to do going forward on getting rid of racial bias in the justice system. She “vowed” that we will not cease our efforts until our court system “…treats every person equally before the law – and with dignity and respect – regardless of such irrelevancies as race or gender or class.”
More recently, in 2018, Minneapolis Police Officers made 7,195 minor traffic car stops for equipment violations. Although the population in Minneapolis was 18.8 percent black, 54.8 percent (3,940) of those drivers stopped were black. After the stop for an equipment violation, the police searched 856 of those vehicles and 74.8 percent of those searched were black – also known in certain neighborhoods as being stopped for “driving while black.”
Just a little over a year ago, the ACLU of Minnesota found in April 2020 that “Black people are 5.4 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in Minnesota…despite comparable usage rates.” In 2018, Minnesota ranked 8th in the United States for the largest racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests.
My Office will proudly carry forward the torch and challenge that the late Associate Justice Wahl left behind for us. I pledge that my office will treat all residents of Hennepin County “fairly and equally” and with the dignity and respect that they deserve…in ALL neighborhoods.
We need more than “feel-good fixes” and short-term sugar pills to make our streets safer and to create justice for ALL. Those alone will not give us the sustained, longer-term changes that are much needed here in Hennepin County. I have a short-term plan and a comprehensive long-term plan that includes partnering and working collectively with key stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
To have sustained, safe streets long-term, we will not be able to spend our way out of the problem nor can we “lock everyone up.” We have tried that for over thirty years. Instead, we must engage key stakeholders in Hennepin County in the criminal justice system and proactively engage our local neighborhoods – especially those with higher crime rates – and work to earn those residents’ trust.
While making our streets safer, we must at the same time reduce the oversized footprint of mass incarceration and its associated financial costs. We must also reduce the significant collateral damage caused to some neighborhoods and families living in Hennepin County.
As your next county attorney, I will convene a “Criminal Justice System Reform Task Force – Reducing Mass Incarceration.” The task force will consist of six working groups and their working sub-committees. Instead of primarily relying on incarceration to create accountability in Hennepin County, we must also identify and use fact-driven, data-based, alternative “accountability” programs from around the country that have a proven track record of success in reducing crime and moving its residents closer to justice for ALL.
The task force’s primary goals will be to focus on how, as key stakeholders in Hennepin County, we can: 1) make our streets safer; 2) bring us closer to “fair and equal” treatment for all…in EVERY neighborhood; 3) significantly reduce the oversized “footprint” of mass incarceration in Hennepin County; and, 4) significantly reduce the associated financial costs and its collateral damage to families and neighborhoods.