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Harrington has vision, commitment, determination for DA’s office

By Thursday, Aug 30, 2018 Letters 2

To the editor:

We need a genuine reformer to be the next Berkshire County istrict attorney. We need a DA who will enact wholesale criminal justice reform; who will embrace common sense, non-punitive strategies for dealing with the opioid epidemic; who will protect victims of domestic violence and vulnerable immigrant communities; and who will aggressively prosecute sexual predators. Andrea Harrington has the vision, commitment and determination to change the culture and practices of the DA’s office so that it becomes a model for achieving these goals.

Andrea has 15 years of experience working as a defense attorney with people on death row and, more recently, in consumer and family law. Past experience as a prosecutor is useful, but such experience should not be the paramount, let alone the sole, criterion for the job. In a recent poll of over 600 Massachusetts voters by the American Civil Liberties Union, more people gave first place to a candidate’s commitment to racial justice and to reducing race and class bias among prosecutors than did those who valued experience above all when deciding for whom to cast their vote for DA.

Andrea’s plans for reforming the district attorney’s office reflect the changes in the criminal justice system that many people, especially people of color, are seeking at the local level. She has, for example, highlighted the fact that African-Americans in our community are charged bail that is five times higher than the median bail charged whites, and she will work to eliminate that inequity.

Reform-oriented models, championed by unconventional candidates, are gaining traction across the country, proving that, if you want someone who thinks outside the box, find someone who is outside the system. Last year Philadelphia elected a district attorney who was a civil rights lawyer with no prosecutorial experience. Since being elected, he has ended cash bail for low-level and nonviolent offenses. In Massachusetts, successful offices are led by district attorneys whose past trial experience is modest but who have enacted policies aimed at restorative justice and hired and supervised the most capable assistant DAs to carry them out. If this model works well elsewhere in the state, it can also work in the Berkshires.

Like those other iconoclasts running for DA across the nation, Andrea believes strongly that there should be accountability and transparency in the DA’s office, and that the DA has a responsibility to engage with the community. To this end, she proposes that the office issue a quarterly newsletter and establish a citizens’ advisory board to weigh in on social justice and civil rights issues; and that it establish domestic-violence and child-abuse prevention programs that have been successfully adopted in other jurisdictions.

As Andrea likes to say, “If you want reform, elect a reformer.” Vote for reform: Vote for Andrea Harrington for district attorney on September 4.

Louise and Frank Farkas