Joseph Cervantez, the newly elected Jackson County Attorney, has started his tenure studying COVID-19 regulations and training SIU classes and other assignments to reform Jackson County within his first 30 days in office.
Traditionally, the prosecutor was trained by the predecessor, but due to COVID-19, Cervantez’s transition was limited.
“I just showed up on the first day and it was my job,” said Cervantez.
Cervantez said he spent most of his time reaching out to law enforcement agencies, local welfare offices, and investigating active cases. He plans to go to court in January.
Cervantez said in a press release on Dec. 19 that he opposed mandatory indoor restaurant closings due to COVID-19.
Restaurants should be checked on a case-by-case basis, but no matter what he would do with the Jackson County Health Department, Cervantez said.
“I want to explain these decisions,” said Cervantez. “The real question is not whether we should have done that [indoor dining]Yes or no, it will be how many people we can safely have indoors. “
Mary Lou’s Grill, a restaurant on 118 S Illinois Ave. in Carbondale, announced Jan. 2 that they had been fined Carbondale $ 750 per day for dining indoors. They said they will close from January 10th until indoor eating is allowed.
Marilyn Martin, owner of Mary Lou’s Grill, said they would have to choose to stay open in order to survive. They received a warning letter first and were fined on New Year’s Eve, she said. You haven’t eaten inside since.
Martin said they continued to keep the restaurant clean and keep things off the tables. Masks were also enforced when entering the restaurant, she said.
“We did everything we could to be open for dinner,” she said.
Martin said they struggled to pay the bills while dining indoors because of the reduced capacity, but now they have to close until further notice because they are not making enough running out.
“We’ve been in business since 1962,” said Martin. “The city really hasn’t done anything to help businesses.”
While Mary Lou’s Grill’s choice is to stay open, it’s also people’s choice to have dinner, she said.
“We know [COVID-19] is real, but just use common sense, ”said Martin. “It’s a sad day for all of us.”
Cervantez said he will agree with the health department if they claim it is unsafe and have the data to prove it. He will support the fine or the revocation of the restaurant’s license.
Public Prosecutor and SIU
Starting in January, students and doctoral candidates in the fields of criminal justice, law, sociology, psychology and data specialists will have the opportunity to gain practical experience in the public prosecutor’s office. It will be officially announced in early 2021, Cervantez said.
Cervantez said he has draft classes for students to take for office work.
“This is the best way to train someone,” said Cervantez. “It helps the university with recruiting and it helps our office.”
Students can help the office with guidelines, programming, and data collection. You will also be able to review cases, conduct legal investigations, and document communications, Cervantez said.
“I hope that in return they can include something on their résumé that they have been part of this effort that is currently going on nationwide and that is criminal justice reform,” Cervantez said.
In February, Cervantez will meet with judges and public defenders to discuss a future program of amnesty for nonviolent offenses, mainly traffic.
An amnesty program would involve working with people who have difficulty paying fines, making it to court hearings, or have received arrest warrants based on their driving license.
In March, Cervantez will set up a citizens’ council where he will meet with members of the community and mayors to discuss future policies and programs in the prosecution. This board will meet every two months.
Employee reporter Keaton Yates can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @keatsians.
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