Policy

“Rollins is a dynamic leader who’ll be able to attract talent and push the office in new directions.” — The Boston Globe

As District Attorney, Rachael Rollins will put in place fair, transparent policies to keep residents safe and provide justice for victims. Everyone that comes into contact with her Office will be treated with dignity and respect. She will improve our criminal justice system through best-practice, data-driven programs that prioritize equity and justice. The communities that make up Suffolk County will be partners in the process of transforming the District Attorney’s Office.The Office will reflect and benefit from the rich diversity of Suffolk County.

Rachael will work to build trust through community involvement, ensure public safety, implement progressive policy reforms, and advocate for treatment not jail for those who suffer from mental illness or substance use disorder.

BUILDING TRUST

Community Involvement: Authentic partnerships with the community are essential to community safety.  Additionally, each community is different, and the Rollins Administration recognizes that police and prosecutors will not be successful unless they have support and input from the communities they serve. A Rollins Administration will:

  • Build on Rachael’s well-established track record of collaboration by working with and alongside local, state, and federal government officials; law enforcement; unions and businesses; community-based organizations; neighborhood leaders; and community activists to understand challenges, develop solutions, and make change. These partnerships will focus on areas of prevention, restorative justice, and re-entry.
  • Rachael will hold quarterly meetings throughout Suffolk County to share and gather data that will be used to continually improve the work of the District Attorney’s Office.

Reducing Racial Disparities: Massachusetts has one of the lowest incarcerations rates in the country except in certain Boston neighborhoods–particularly communities of color.  In Massachusetts, Black and Brown residents make up approximately 17% of the overall population, but account for approximately 50% of those currently incarcerated.  It is not just financially expensive to incarcerate people (costing taxpayers up to $65K per year to incarcerate a single person) but it is socially expensive — removing people from their work, families, and communities.  The Rollins Administration will address racial disparities through systemic change:

  • We will set clear policy and dedicate resources to crimes that harm all of our communities including economic crimes such as wage theft and hate crimes.
  • All employees will participate in implicit bias training and ongoing professional development in the related areas of diversity, inclusion, and equity.
  • Data will be used to track and correct for bias among Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs).
  • The Rollins Administration — including at the leadership level — will adequately reflect the rich and varied communities throughout Suffolk County.
  • Rachael will serve as a bold leader through Suffolk Country on issues of racial justice.   

Over 1000 Unsolved Murders in Suffolk County: The disparity in unsolved homicide cases jeopardizes our broader commitment to protecting the safety of all communities across Suffolk County. When this reality is paired with the existing racial gap in unsolved homicide cases, the transparency of the DA’s office fails to accurately reflect the needs of community members.

According to a recent report published by The Washington Post, approximately 90% of homicide cases in Boston involving White victims have been solved since 2007, while less than half of cases involving Black victims are still unsolved. This is unacceptable.

The Rollins Administration is committed to leveraging the joint effort of the DA’s office and the leadership of the Boston Police Department to bring justice to these victims and their families. In addition, the Administration seeks to curate tangible solutions that counteract the persisting racial gap in unsolved homicide cases. This is essential not only in reducing disproportionate victimization, but in ameliorating the violent crime rates throughout Suffolk County. The Rollins Administration understands that such progress can only be achieved if every community has a voice, and when the needs of every community are equitably prioritized.

Addressing Police Misconduct and Investigating Police-Involved Shootings: When a Officer has received complaints, Rachael will be notified, data will be recorded, and monitoring of data will be acted upon. If an Officer receives multiple complaints, our Office can begin the process of no longer accepting cases where the Officer in question has been involved until the issues has been resolved through training, or discipline up to and including termination.  If the behavior is criminal, the Officer will be charged.

Our goal is public safety — both for law enforcement and for the greater community.  When there is a police-involved shooting, a Rollins Administration will act with urgency and transparency. The community does not believe that the same DA’s Office that works hand-in-hand with the police every day in court can be neutral and unbiased if tasked with investigating those same officers in a shooting.

The Rollins Administration will remove the investigative process from the ADAs in the Office and have a select group of external experts handle these investigations and report the finding directly to the DA. Similar to the model of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), we will implement a “Go Team” for Officer-involved shootings, staffed by a diverse and talented group of former prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, civil rights lawyers, retired judges, and former members of law enforcement.

ICE in Our Communities: Communities are safer when our immigrant neighbors can trust the criminal justice system, including the Office of the District Attorney.  Rachael will follow the lead and best practices of bold, progressive District Attorneys such as DA Krasner in Philadelphia:

  • Every ADA will be instructed to call Rachael directly if they see ICE or any federal agent detaining or arresting someone in or near a Suffolk County Courthouse; she will personally go to the federal courthouse and speak to the US Attorney about having that Suffolk County resident returned to Suffolk County.
  • We will work urgently to end ICE access to our databases.
  • Within her first 30 days, Rachael will implement a door-to-door security plan utilizing victim witness advocates and civil rights and defense attorneys to escort undocumented parties to and from the courthouse safely.
  • The plan will be kept confidential for important security reasons, but we will share with the public as much of the plan as possible without jeopardizing the safety and security of the parties the plan is intended to protect.

ENSURING SAFETY

Prosecuting Crime: The District Attorney’s office should not and will not be the front door to mass incarceration.  However, in carrying out justice we must prosecute violent crime, economic crime, and other crimes that truly deserve prosecution. We will prosecute crime, but we will do it differently.

Many of the charges brought by the current administration are non-violent, property crimes.  Rachael believes that incarceration should be reserved for violent offenders that are disrupting the safety of our communities.  By looking at the root causes of many of the non-violent, property crimes and crimes of desperation, we can see that addiction, mental-illness, and poverty are the real culprits.  Services, not sentences are the solutions.

Supporting Victims: The Rollins Administration understands that an effective response to victims leads to a reduction in crime and can speed the healing process.

  • We will promote positive, respectful and professional relationships with victims.
  • We will respond to victims in a timely fashion, value their feedback, and continually improve our victim services.
  • We will meet with crime victims personally prior to the victim’s testifying. This will not only be the role of the Victim Witness Advocates, the ADA will also meet with the victim prior to testifying.
  • Our workforce will reflect the diversity of the people we serve including people who speak languages other than English. Whenever possible, constituents should be able to speak in their first language. We will work to recruit staff with fluency in the languages commonly spoken in Suffolk County (Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Cape Verdean Creole, and Vietnamese).  Our materials will be translated into these languages.
  • In addition to unconscious bias training, our staff will receive training in serving the LGBTQ+ population and people with disabilities.  Our staff will understand that people’s social identities are complex and that everyone’s voice should be heard.
  • All of our ADA’s and VWA’s will have sufficient training including in issues related to domestic violence, family violence, hate crimes, and childhood sexual abuse.

Restorative Justice: Reform and redemption are cornerstones of a Rollins Administration, which is why we will prioritize restorative justice programming.  If victims are interested and defendants are willing to admit their role in the conflict, a restorative justice conferencing model will be considered as a diversionary tactic. We are committed researching, implementing, and leading on new applications of restorative justice at other points in the justice system. Research shows that restorative justice is cost-effective, leads to decreased recidivism, and satisfies the needs of both victims and defendants.

Educating and Involvement in Communities: In addition to the DA reporting out to the Suffolk County community on at least a quarterly basis, the ADA’s that practice in the different communities within Suffolk County will be active participants in Civic Association and Community meetings in the neighborhoods surrounding the various Suffolk County Courthouses.  The ADA’s will be evaluated on their relationships with the community within which they serve.  We will also be teaching the community about the role of the DA’s Office and hearing from them what we can do better and do differently.

IMPLEMENTING PROGRESSIVE POLICY

Implementing the 2018 Criminal Justice Bill: The Rollins Administration will effectively implement the big changes involved in the new law. We will invest time and resources in mechanisms for judicial diversion and an expansion of the restorative justice system. Rachael supports the elimination of cash bail and mandatory minimums — and will advocate for further reform on Beacon Hill.

Bail Reform: The purpose of Bail is to ensure the return of an individual for future court appearances. In our current system, however, often times an arbitrary bail amount is set and many people end up in jail because they are poor and cannot afford their bail.  We must remove the disadvantages of poverty and lower incomes.  The Rollins Administration will move towards eliminating cash bail for individuals who do not pose a flight risk. If an individual is thought to be dangerous, they will face a dangerousness hearing to determine the risk and solution. There are other charges for which the default will be to decline prosecuting.

Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture: The DA’s Office has the power to civilly seize assets and keep them, even if the rightful owner is ultimately exonerated or the criminal charges are dropped. This practice is unfair, alienates the communities we serve, and de-legitimizing law enforcement.  The Rollins Administration will implement a policy by which we will only seize assets after guilt is admitted or proven in criminal cases.

Strong Re-entry Programs: Once someone has paid their debt to society, we must give them the tools and an opportunity to succeed when they re-enter our community.  We are committed to significantly reducing the rate of recidivism. The Rollins Administration will work with community-based organizations, leverage public-private-partnerships, and advocate for increased funding of vocational services and workforce training opportunities for prisoners in Suffolk County. The District Attorney’s office will help to establish pathways to education and employment for ex-offenders.

TREATMENT, NOT JAIL

Decriminalization of Poverty, Addiction, and Mental Illness: All members of our community, no matter their circumstances, will be treated with dignity and respect when they come into contact with our Office.  We will no longer criminalize poverty, substance use disorder, and mental illness.  We will advocate for treatment, not jail.

  • Rachael is committed to ending the cash bail system
  • We will work hand-in-hand with stakeholders to provide community-based preventative and treatment services for addiction and mental illness instead of using our jails as recovery and mental health facilities.
  • We will work with those providing research-based harm reduction reduction services. We will not prosecute doctors working at or within a Supervised Injection Facility (SIF).   

Diversion for Mental Health Conditions and Substance Use Disorder: A Rollins administration will not prosecute people simply because they suffer from mental illness and/or a substance use disorder. When those with untreated conditions do commit a crime, we will explore alternatives to incarceration; for those in our jails and prisons, we should fully fund science-based treatment and medical care. The simple reality of this is that we can’t arrest or incarcerate our way out of these problems.

  • We will partner with social services and health care systems to utilize, create, and advocate for fully funding effective solutions for community members.
  • We will reject cases outright for non-violent offenses predicated solely on mental health issues and addiction, and in other non-violent circumstances, we will advocate for the use of diversion into the proper services needed.

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