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Andrea Harrington speaks at the opening of the new Goodwill store earlier this week. Harrington is running for a second term as district attorney.

Harrington Looks to Continue Progressive Work in DA Re-Election Bid

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Andrea Harrington wants to continue the work she began during her first term as district attorney. 
 
"I am running again because there is more work than I want to do in order to modernize the criminal justice system here in Berkshire County," she said. "I feel that we've been incredibly effective in being smart on violent crime, and getting people that need treatment the help that they need."
 
She pointed to some of her accomplishments over the past four years including ending cash bail, focusing on racial and economic equity, reducing prosecutions for minor crimes and diverting offenders to community-based services, and establishing special units and programs for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and working on prevention measures. 
 
Harrington defeated incumbent Paul Caccaviello not once but twice in 2018 on a platform of criminal justice reform to become the county's first woman to run the district attorney's office. In the 2022 primary election, she is being challenged by fellow Democrat Timothy Shugrue.   
 
She launched her re-election campaign in late May in Great Barrington with U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin at her side and several local leaders. The Maryland Democrat's known Harrington since her time at American University's Washington College of Law where he teaches constitutional law. 
 
Harrington's early priorities were to establish a Domestic Violence Task Force, end the reliance on cash bail, and offer treatment to non-violent offenders over incarceration.
 
The progressive prosecutor said she would put all of these initiatives under a larger umbrella in which she believes the office has changed the culture of law enforcement in Berkshire County by focusing resources on investigating and aggressively prosecuting violent crime.
 
She added that her office also made a positive impact on thousands of people who are brought into the court system for nonviolent offenses and getting them the help they need.
 
"I'm frankly amazed by the huge impact that we've had in both those areas," Harrington said.
 
"And I think that they go hand in hand because we need to put our resources and our time and our efforts into the cases that really require law enforcement and court involvement and the people who are struggling with mental health challenges, the impacts of poverty, challenges with substances, they need more rehabilitative approaches and I'm amazed by how much we've been able to accomplish those goals."
 
The task force was created in April 2019 and the Domestic Violence High-Risk Team in 2020 to bring multiple disciplines together to strengthen social service and law enforcement responses to domestic violence.
 
In 2021, Harrington's office expanded the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force to include a violent crime section that zeros in on sexual assaults, high-risk domestic violence, and human trafficking cases.
 
The new cash bail policy was also implemented soon after the new DA took office. In a "100 days in" interview with iBerkshires in 2019, Harrington explained that the focus was to only ask for cash bail if the person has a demonstrated risk of leaving the area to avoid prosecution. For the more serious crimes, the focus was to have the defendant held if he or she is a danger to others.
 
Her other efforts over the last four years include adding a formal juvenile diversion program, establishing a Special Victims Unit to enhance services to victims and improve investigations, and creating the Berkshire DA's first Hate Crime Section to ensure that hateful incidents are prosecuted fully.
 
During Harrington's term, she also adopted equitable prosecution practices to address the over-policing and over-prosecution of communities of color.
 
In the next term, Harrington aims to bring a restorative justice program to Berkshire County.  Restorative justice is an approach in which one of the responses to a crime is to organize a meeting between the victim and the offender, sometimes with representatives of the wider community.
 
She said many people in the community are interested in this service and that there has to be alignment across systems to make such a change happen.
 
For this, the office would have an agency to refer matters to for a restorative justice approach. Harrington referenced an "advanced" program in Middlesex County that provides such services through a nonprofit organization.
 
"Strategically, I focused this first term on the things that the DA directly controls, and that's who we charge and what we charge people with, and we have some control over how resources are allocated to a certain extent," she explained.
 
"And for my next term, my intention is to really do more around organizing resources and organizing the community on issues that the DA has less control over."
 
Another goal for the next term is to continue addressing racial disparities in the justice system.
 
"That issue was important to me before I became the DA and now that I am the DA, I see how essential addressing racial disparities is to public safety overall because we want people to trust law enforcement, we want people to report when they've been victimized by crime, we want people to share information on serious cases with law enforcement," Harrington explained.
 
"And in order to make those things happen, we have to have trust with all parts of our communities, so I see the public safety piece very much as fitting in with our agenda on addressing systemic racism in the criminal legal system."
 
In the meantime, her office is also working to address the opioid epidemic by expanding harm reduction and gun violence with proactive responses rather than reactive. These are two issues that have a significant presence in the county.
 
Harrington said she is looking into a new piece of proposed legislation that would address the need to analyze data on how guns enter the community.
 
"The vast, vast, vast majority of the firearms that are seized from people that own them illegally here in Berkshire County are ghost guns, they're coming from other places outside of Massachusetts," she said. "We need help from the federal government to interrupt the flow of weapons into our community."
 
When asked how she responds to criticism about her progressive practices, the DA said she points to her accomplishments and focuses on doing the next right thing.
 
"You notice people don't actually talk about what we've done or what we've accomplished in the office when they're trying to undermine the work of my office," she added.
 
Harrington pointed to successes in major cases, the implementation of task forces and teams to address violent crime and domestic and sexual violence, and the people who have been put in treatment through the office.
 
Throughout her campaign, she looks forward to talking to people in the community.
 
She is a native of Berkshire County, currently residing in Richmond, and has been practicing criminal law for more than 15 years.

Tags: district attorney,   election 2022,   


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City of Pittsfield Enacts Water Usage Restrictions

PITTSFIELD, Mass.  – With a fast-increasing depletion of the water supply at the Pittsfield Cleveland Reservoir, the city of Pittsfield’s Department of Public Services and Utilities has enacted a State of Water Supply Conservation to ensure an adequate supply of water for fire protection and emergency response effective Monday, Aug. 8.
 
The action, which falls under the city’s Stage 2 Drought Management Plan, implements mandatory water restrictions.
 
Restricted activities include outside water use in general, watering lawns and  gardens, washing vehicles, and filling swimming pools. These activities are only permitted before 7  a.m. and after 7 p.m. and are limited to alternate days. Addresses ending in even numbers may water on even days of the month. Addresses ending in odd numbers may water on odd days of the month.
 
These  restrictions will be enforced by the Department of Public Services and Utilities and will include fines for violations. These include a written warning for the first violation; a $50 fine for the second violation; and $300 for subsequent violations.
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