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Letter: Vote for Patalano for Middlesex DA Sept. 4

The following letter was submitted by Josiah Dirck Stryker of Arlington:


Donna Patalano is running against the incumbent Middlesex County District Attorney in the Sept. 4 primary election because she thinks it is time for major reform in the way the criminal-justice system functions. Too many people are incarcerated at high cost for minor crimes, which could be dealt with in other ways at much lower cost to the public and the community. Patalano has both the experience and the vision to run a DA’s office that prioritizes both safety and social justice.

She worked in management in the health-care industry for 10 years before going to law school. She then was both a prosecutor in the Suffolk County DA’s office and defense attorney specializing in indigent clients. Subsequently, she was appointed chief of orofessional integrity and ethics in the Suffolk County DA’s office. She has been a member of both the National District Attorneys’ Association Best Practices Committee and the Supreme Judicial Court’s Board of Bar Overseers (BBO), the organization responsible for overseeing the ethics and discipline of Massachusetts’ 60,000 active attorneys. At one point, she was appointed by the SJC to chair the BBO.

The current DA does not make data about prosecutions publicly available, making it hard to quantify injustices and racial disparities in our criminal-justice system. These data include race and ethnicity of the defendant, charges, bail amounts and case disposition in the form of dismissal, restorative justice in the community, plea bargaining and trial. One result is that the drug courts, diversion programs and restorative justice in Massachusetts disproportionately serve white people.

The levels of pretrial incarceration in Middlesex County have doubled since the incumbent took office. This has a highly disruptive impact on people’s jobs, education, housing, families, community ties, propensity to commit crimes, and likelihood of dying from a drug overdose. But we do not even know why or where this is occurring, Patalano would make this information publicly available, bringing transparency and accountability to the DAs office, and increasing our understanding what policies are most likely to be effective.

Another problem is high turnover. Audit reports have noted that experienced prosecutors (three years tenure) in the Middlesex DA’s office have been leaving that office at the rate of 11 percent to 17 percent a year during the incumbent’s tenure -- twice the state average. This complicates the prosecution of cases and creates difficulties for defendants.

Donna Patalano has a deep concern for public safety and social justice. She likes to say she has been a human being for a lot longer than she has been a lawyer.

 This letter was published Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. 

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