An unlikely reform candidate, 37-year-old Mark Gonzales won the job of Nueces County District Attorney all without ever prosecuting a case.
His methods were successful because he said people could relate to his message.
Last November, the former trial lawyer won DA after defending clients from what he saw as unnecessarily strict penalties during the first part of his career.
The tattooed, Harley-riding advocate ran on a platform of treatment and education for low-level offenders, while focusing the efforts of police on more serious crime.
Now, he’s trying to make good on that promise, believing he ran at a time when people were ready to hear his progressive message.
According to Business Insider, the Texas prison population grew to a bloated and unmaintainable lever over the past decade, and people are starting to realize something other than maintaining the status quo needs to be done.
Officials and public policy experts were faced with the choice of reform or pouring billions of dollars into new prisons to accommodate the growing number of inmates.
The wave of reform is now reaching the local level in leaders like Gonzales:
“It was perfect timing,” Gonzalez told Business Insider. “People realized what we were doing wasn’t working, so what do we have to lose by trying something different?”