News Briefs: Education task force planning effort; Harrington backs ‘People’s Justice Guarantee’

Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington supports the “People’s Justice Guarantee” resolution unveiled by U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Dorchester.

Berkshire County Education Task Force launches planning effort

Pittsfield — The Berkshire County Education Task Force Thursday announced plans to launch a comprehensive, 12-month planning effort to advance educational quality, equity and opportunity for students across the Berkshires. Over the next 12 months, the task force will, with the help of a consultant:

  • Conduct a detailed analysis of educational quality and access to educational opportunities among the county’s 15,000 students, 44 schools, and 17 districts;
  • Research models of enhanced educational quality, equity and access;
  • Test new approaches to partnership, shared services, and creative collaborations among public schools and districts within the county;
  • Develop financial models to deepen understanding of potential implications of configuring county districts in different ways; and
  • Engage a broad range of stakeholders across the region to gather diverse perspectives as input to planning activities and as feedback to proposed solutions.

The task force will also provide material assistance to Berkshire County districts seeking greater collaboration or consolidation with neighboring districts.

This work will be supported by a $50,000 grant from the Boston-based Barr Foundation in combination with $50,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts thanks to advocacy by state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, and support by the County’s legislative delegation.

*     *     *

Harrington backs Rep. Pressley’s ‘People’s Justice Guarantee’

Pittsfield — Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington supports the “People’s Justice Guarantee” resolution unveiled by U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Dorchester. She has released the following statement.

“The focus on incarceration that has existed in this country for decades has failed and has been particularly devastating to minority communities. This policy left a path of destruction throughout communities that now need to be rebuilt. I applaud Rep. Pressley’s effort to bring the ideas of criminal justice reform embraced by Berkshire County, by the state of Massachusetts, and by cities big and small throughout the nation, to the national level.

Ensuring long term public safety requires addressing the root causes of crime and building communities where people can thrive. Investing in programs that resolve poverty, treat substance abuse, and ensure health care rather than on jails is money better spent. Shifting the focus and resources of law enforcement and prosecutors from minor crimes toward violent crimes will result in greater public safety.

In less than a year, my office has made tremendous progress on creating a more fair and just system that will better serve the Berkshires for the long term. The availability of resources in Berkshire County, however, continues to limit the impact the Berkshire District Attorney Office’s programs can have.

Rep. Pressley’s resolution calls for the re-focusing of the national conversation around criminal justice and re-prioritizing federal resources which, in turn, will help our office enact the changes that the voters of Berkshire County voted for during last year’s election.

The resolution makes a dramatic statement about what we as a nation consider justice and humanity. Justice is not simply locking somebody up just to see them released and committing more and more egregious crimes. Justice is doing what is right for the entire community now and in the future.”