DA candidates face off in Roxbury

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Kevin Hayden has spent much of his life working behind the scenes, serving as an assistant district attorney under Ralph Martin and Dan Conley, as head of the Sex Offender Registry Board, and as a criminal defense attorney in private practice. But when Gov. Charlie Baker hired him to serve the remainder of Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins’ term, he said he felt called to public service.

“I got involved as a black man who was discriminated against by the system, husband of a Caribbean immigrant, father of two teenagers, prosecutor fighting to keep our community safe,” he said. said, concluding his opening remarks at a Democratic Ward 12 Committee Forum on Monday.

Councilman Ricardo Arroyo made his decision to run for public office based on his experiences as a public defender in Essex and Suffolk counties where he says he has seen racial disparities produce divergent outcomes for people. colored defendants and white defendants, the poor and the rich. As an elected city councilor in 2019, he kicked off his first term with a resolution, later passed by the mayor, declaring racism a public health crisis and worked to shift funding from policing to prevention services. violence.

He helped Rollins compile a list of 15 misdemeanor charges that Suffolk County assistant district attorneys would not pursue and watched the office enact an agenda for reform.

Voters listen to candidates for the Suffolk County Attorney’s Office during a forum at the 12th Baptist Church in Roxbury. PHOTO BANNER

“This position takes courage,” he said. “This position requires you to take positions to go further than we are currently. And that’s what I seek to do as your district attorney.

Ward 12 Co-Chair Jose Lopez, who moderated the forum, kicked off the Q&A by asking what role incarceration plays in an ex-offender’s ability to reintegrate into their community.

Arroyo said incarceration should only be used for high level offenses.

“Incarceration should be reserved for those who are violent, those who really disrupt our communities,” he said.

He noted that under Dan Conley, the district attorney’s office dismissed 60% of the cases on Rollins’ list of 15 misdemeanors. Under Rollins, 74% of those cases were dismissed.

“The difference was that now it wasn’t based on the different micro-biases and the things that might happen on a [assistant district attorney] level,” he said. “It was policy-based, so black people and people of color, Latinos and other people could access these things the same way as someone else who wasn’t the same. race or did not have the same class structure.”

Arroyo said he favors the elimination of cash bail, a reform measure that has taken hold in jurisdictions across the country.

Hayden said he too was determined to reform.

“I don’t give way to anyone when it comes to criminal law reform,” he said, noting that he had implemented crime prevention and intervention programs while working in the office as what a young prosecutor.

Hayden said he’s not upholding Rollins’ list of 15 misdemeanors where the default position is not to prosecute, but rather to have assistant district attorneys decide on a case-by-case basis.

“What we won’t do is focus on charges and a stereotypical approach of who will be prosecuted and who won’t,” he said. “What we’re going to focus on is the human being who took the charges.”

Asked about the public health crisis in the Mass and Cass area, Arroyo and Hayden said they would not prosecute people charged with drug-related crimes.

Hayden said his office committed $450,000 that was seized from drug dealers and invested it in services for people in the area. He also said his office was targeting people accused of sex trafficking and drug trafficking in the area.

Arroyo said arresting low-level offenders and then referring their cases to treatment centers can fill those centers with people motivated more by a desire to stay out of prison than a desire to clean themselves up. He reiterated his commitment to Rollins’ list of 15 misdemeanors, which include drug possession.

“You can’t say you’re going to continue a process or you’re going to expand a process when you’re not even committing to the process,” he said, taking a dig at Hayden.

When asked how he would implement his platform, Hayden said he was building a community engagement team in the office.

“We’re going to take community engagement and community collaboration and working with our communities and everyone in our communities to a level you’ve never seen before,” he said.

Arroyo said he was committed to collecting data on factors such as recidivism to track the operation of office policies and to make that date public.

“That’s what allows me to tell you that the list of 15 was actually studied, and they went back 10 years and they came back with the reality that 64% of people who weren’t charged don’t never came back to court with a misdemeanor,” he said. “Seventy-four percent never came back to court with a crime. We only know that because we have the data to study it. »

Both candidates said they would integrate restorative justice into their administrations. Hayden pointed to the pilot project he started that would allow misdemeanor defendants to meet with crime victims and law enforcement to make amends for their crime.

“There is always a place for restorative justice, as long as those involved are willing to engage with it and I can tell you, our community needs it more and more,” Hayden said.

Arroyo said restorative justice should be rooted in the communities in which offenders and victims live, noting that Hayden contracted with a nonprofit in Concord for his program and said violent offenses should be included in such a program as well as non-violent offences.

“That’s not really how restorative justice works,” he said. “And we have real data and findings that show that restorative justice can work on all kinds of offenses can actually work in real ways.”

In closing, Arroyo emphasized his commitment to continuing the incremental changes Rollins has made to the office.

“I bring a certain perspective and a certain lens to this that wants to equate justice and fairness for all,” he said. “And for us to do that, we need to make sure that we apply the laws fairly and that we apply real prescriptive medicine to the racial and class disparities that we see growing every day in our justice systems.”

Hayden also said he was committed to reform but said keeping streets safe would be his number one priority.

“We can’t fool ourselves into thinking accountability isn’t part of the equation, because it is,” he said. “We will keep our streets safe and criminal justice trained together at the same time.”

Hayden and Arroyo will be on the ballot in the Sept. 6 Democratic primary. The winner will be unopposed in the November election, as no Republicans are running for the seat.

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