Rhetoric, Not Reform: Prosecutors & Pretrial Practices in Suffolk, Middlesex, and Berkshire Counties

On October 3, 2019, we released a groundbreaking report with Families for Justice as Healing and the Massachusetts Bail Fund under the auspices of our joint abolitionist project, CourtWatch MA. The report evaluates the efforts at pretrial reform in three different prosecuting offices in Massachusetts: Suffolk County (DA Rachael Rollins), Middlesex County (DA Marian Ryan), and Berkshire County (DA Andrea Harrington).

There’s a lot of talk about progressive prosecutors, good prosecutors, reform-minded prosecutors. As an abolitionist project, CourtWatch MA cares about how people are treated in court and, ultimately, eliminating the prosecuting office.

We also want to do everything we can to make sure people are treated better right now. We have paid special attention to the Massachusetts counties with ‘reformers’ in office, to see whether their campaign promises and office policies result in actual decarceration, eliminate racial disparities, or keep more people out of the system entirely.

For this report we compiled, reviewed, and analyzed publicly available data on prosecutor-led “pretrial reform” in Suffolk, Middlesex, and Berkshire Counties. Prosecutors in Massachusetts may talk about reform and decarceration, but the limited available data suggest their practices don’t live up to their rhetoric.

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