Prosecutorial Accountability & CourtWatch MA

In partnership with community organizations the Massachusetts Bail Fund and Families for Justice as Healing, we offer technical assistance to a courtwatching project and work with organizations across the country to hone and develop prosecutor organizing accountability campaigns.

CourtWatch MA shifts the power dynamics in courtrooms by exposing the decisions judges and prosecutors make about neighbors every day. In January 2019, CourtWatch MA launched a First 100 Days CourtWatch Project in Suffolk County to hold the District Attorney’s Office accountable for reducing pre-trial detention and addressing racial disparities—promises District Attorney Rachael Rollins boldly campaigned on. Trained volunteers were in three to four Suffolk County courts each day monitoring how campaign promises were carried out in individual cases. Volunteers then put their observations and reflections into a surveymonkey, and we analyzed the data, wrote weekly digests, and catalogued individual stories from court on twitter (@CourtWatchMA).

The initiative continued with periodic spot-watching in arraignment courts in Suffolk County through summer 2019, a spinoff in Berkshire County to monitor the first term of DA Andrea Harrington, and a project focused on dangerousness hearings (G.L. c. 276, § 58A) in Essex County. These efforts document the pace of change and engage community in the transformation process.