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Rollins leads the way on local criminal justice reform

Melvin B. Miller

Everyone knows that the police need to be reformed. Many would not admit it until the George Floyd case was caught on video and smashed the arguments of all apologists, even the most die-hard “law and order” defenders. Social change in many areas comes slowly because few have the courage to stand up and propose reform. Boston is fortunate, because the Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is one of those intrepid game-changers.

Fortunately for us, she was aware that people were tired of prosecutors spending countless hours on petty matters while social decay was being ignored. As a candidate, she called for an end to petty non-violent prosecutions such as larceny and marijuana possession. Those perpetrators, mostly suffering from drug addiction or poverty-generated problems, would be sent to other agencies that are better equipped to cope with the problems.

Such suggestions alienated the political support of the police, but the average citizen understood the advantage of the change. Rollins’ proposal amounted to a reduction in the authority of the police. Prior to implementation of her proposal, a petty misdemeanor offender would be arrested, and then ushered through the criminal justice system with only minimal involvement of the prosecutor. Citizens would then have criminal records.

Rollins boldly insisted that her approach would actually reduce crime. She found that 60% of the Suffolk County prosecutor’s time was spent on matters that “…served no public safety interest.” Now, an academic analysis of 67,533 misdemeanor cases from 2004 to 2018 found that those not prosecuted for committing one of the 15 misdemeanors she had listed were 58% less likely to commit another crime in the next two years.

Not only has Rollins reduced the level of crime in Suffolk County, but she has rescued numerous minor miscreants from being absorbed in the criminal justice system. Once you have a criminal record, employment, education and other opportunities diminish. An individual already suffering from social or personal circumstances could be driven to a dangerous state of mind.

Voters should not forget that Rollins assumed great personal antagonism from those who are offended by the changes she has implemented. She took the risk and won for the citizens. She certainly earned and deserves public support.

criminal justice reforms, rachael rollins