Criminal Justice Reform
The United States has about 5 percent of the world’s population, but a staggering 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. It is clear that the old “tough on crime” model, which sought to maximize convictions and sentence lengths for non-violent offenders, has failed––especially when research shows that locking up people who are not a danger does nothing to prevent crime.
Instead, as Berkshire District Attorney, I will focus my efforts and resources toward justice through context-appropriate and trauma-informed prosecutorial practices. To keep people safe while ensuring fair and equitable treatment for victims, I will:
- End incarceration for non-violent offenses. Sending people to prison should be the last resort, not the first.
- End the school-to-prison pipeline that funnels youth, particularly youth of color, into the criminal justice system.
- Implement bail reform by ending cash bail for low-level and low-risk offenders, ending practices that disproportionately penalize low-income individuals.
- End the war on drugs by de-prioritizing cases related to minor drug possession and use, which drains our resources and disproportionately hurt communities of color.
Fight the Opioid Epidemic with Smart Policy and Compassion
The current opioid crisis is one of the biggest issues facing our country today, and Berkshire County has seen far too many deaths in just the past few years. The solution is not to keep locking people up. Addiction is a disease, not a crime, and should be treated as such. Instead, the community ought to come together to come up with data-informed, compassionate solutions to these problems. To help deal with the crisis, I propose that we:
- Seek help for addicts instead of locking them up. The Drug Court was a great first step, and as DA I plan to build on that progress.
- Prosecute those truly responsible for the crisis––drug companies. Where possible, I will assist in law suits targeting the companies behind the epidemic.
Protect the Vulnerable
As a criminal defense lawyer, I have seen firsthand how the criminal justice system can affect women, children, people of color, and vulnerable immigrant communities. The “tough on crime” approach too often strong arms these communities into compliance and over-prosecutes people without the resources to defend themselves. Victims deserve a voice, and my office will help speak up for these communities. To help protect victims and their families, I will implement trauma-informed prosecutorial reforms that:
- Aggressively prosecute violent crime. Violent offenders, particularly domestic abuser cannot expect a friendly plea bargain when I am District Attorney. Under my watch, domestic abusers see long jail sentences, not probation. We need to commit the same time and resources toward domestic violence that the current DA has put toward the war on drugs and end the cycle of violence which often starts in our homes.
- Prioritize cases of sex and race-based discrimination.
- Specifically reviewing convictions to ensure that they are just and don’t unfairly target women, children, people of color, or those in the LGBTQ+ community.
- Protect immigrant communities by ensuring that the Berkshire County justice system does not threaten their well-being or ability to live here without interference.
- Dismiss cases more readily where and when it appears that the defendant may be innocent.
Transparency and Accountability
It is one of my highest priorities that the Berkshire County District Attorney and her office conduct themselves with the utmost integrity. But a commitment to pursuing justice means nothing without transparency and accountability. The public thus has a right to know what the District Attorney does and why. In order to be transparent and accountable as your District Attorney, I will:
- Create and release detailed protocols for dealing with high-profile cases like police misconduct, sexual assault, and other serious matters.
- Establish a Citizen’s Advisory Board to advise me and my staff in the areas of community outreach and education, crime prevention, community prosecution, civic engagement, social justice and civil rights issues.
- Hire only those prosecutors that promote public safety AND seek justice with empathy, compassion, integrity, and a strong desire to reduce racial and gender disparities in policing.
- Maintain and release detailed statistics on rates of incarceration by race, gender, and other demographic factors, as well as detailed comparisons with state and national rates.
Diversion and Prevention
The District Attorney has tremendous power when it comes to prosecuting individuals. But she also has the power to divert certain people––especially veterans, children, and those suffering from addiction––toward programs designed to help them, rather than simply locking them up.
For all but the worst violent offenses, our focus should be on rehabilitation, not incarceration. As the Berkshire DA, I would support these efforts and work hard to implement smart prevention policies to make sure many of these crimes aren’t committed in the first place. For example, I would support:
- Social service interventions where necessary to help victims and their families navigate the criminal justice system.
- Additional resources for the Berkshire County Drug Court and work to establish a Veterans Treatment Court in Berkshire County.
- Before- and after-school programs that provide mentoring, counseling, and other support services for young people.
- Sexual assault and domestic violence counseling that guide victims through the difficult periods they often face, even after legal intervention.
- Targeted employment opportunities, quality healthcare, and better housing opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals hoping to rejoin society.