Carlos Vega, Democratic candidate for District Attorney on the May 18 primary ballot. Attorney Vega was previously a Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney for 25 years.
A chat with District Attorney candidate Carlos Vega
By Ted Behr
I had the opportunity to talk with former Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega this week. He is, of course, running in the May 18 primary election against the current Philadelphia DA, Larry Krasner to be the Democratic nominee in the general election next November.
On the minds of virtually everyone in our country, today is whether the criminal justice system should give priority to “Safety” or “Reform.”
On one side are those who favor giving our law enforcement the resources they need to be “tougher on crime” and want the courts to prosecute and jail law violators.
On the other side, there are the reformers who insist law enforcement must be held far more accountable for its actions, and that the courts and society focus on rehabilitative justice, for instance, breaking the school to prison pipeline.
Mr. Vega indicates that “We can and should pursue both reform and safety. On safety, he wants to use the Kennedy School approach of bringing together law enforcement at all levels with civic, religious, health, and social resource aiming to prevent as well as deterring violence and crime. “We should be working together to share intelligence, identify the negative elements in the community, and neutralize them.
For at-risk children and youth, he would emphasize strengthening their formal education and providing counseling. Job skills training would also be important, plus restorative opportunities rather than prosecution and jail
“We have 320 attorneys in the DA’s office, and I’d like to start an ‘Adopt a School’ program where our staff visits the city schools and interacts with the students,” he suggested. “That way we can both listen to their concerns and respond directly – and discuss the alternatives available to them.”
Another emphasis would be expanding the “Learn and Earn” approach where local businesses and schools come together to provide work experience and income to young people.
Regarding safety, and the horrific increase in shootings, former DA Vega said soberly, “If 500 of our military were killed in Afghanistan, the entire nation would be crying out for solutions. We have to keep our city safe!” He was sick of people having to live behind closed doors in fear; parents always being afraid when their children outside went out to play.
As to whether he is equipped to do that dual job as District Attorney, Mr. Vega noted that he was raised in one of the poorest and toughest parts of New York City before moving to Philadelphia. “I began working in my mother’s store when I was very young,” he reflected. “At various times she or the store were robbed, and violence was always a threat on the neighborhood streets – much of it related to drugs.”
School was difficult for him initially, but his mother constantly emphasized education for him and his three siblings (they all went to college and three have advanced degrees.) She had to work extra hard to pay the tuition for them to attend parochial schools.
Recruited by DA Ed Rendell after law school, Mr. Vega became one of the lead prosecutors in the department, handling many of the most difficult homicide cases – until he was immediately fired with three dozen other prosecutors by the new DA Krasner back in 2018.
In summary, Mr. Vega decided to run for District Attorney to bring about his alternate solutions to the justice system. “The community and law enforcement have to work together to address and overcome the problems we are now facing.”