Sharon V. Jones
Kevin C. Mortimer
Joel M. Reck
Lawrence A. Wind
Guest Post: Janette Ekanem (Greater Boston Legal Services) is a member of the BBA’s 2018-2019 Public Interest Leadership Program.
This past fall, Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, spoke to the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) about the history of the criminal legal system, (a term he prefers to criminal justice system) and efforts to reform the system within Massachusetts.
In Massachusetts last year, five out of eleven races
for district attorney were contested and as a result, reform of the criminal
legal system has been at the forefront of voters’ minds. Attorney Hall noted that although police have
power, district attorneys are the most powerful people in the criminal legal
system because they decide who gets charged with a crime, and they determine
how most criminal cases are resolved.
Attorney Hall’s remarks challenged PILP participants
to deeply examine the historical roots of the criminal legal system and how the
history of the system has continued to further racial disparities. PILP members learned that despite being
branded as a liberal state, Massachusetts has some of the worst racial
disparities in the criminal legal system when compared to other states in the
The need to address these troubling disparities guided
the Boston Bar’s own
report on criminal justice reform released in the lead-up to the reforms
made last session. You can learn more about that report, titled, No Time to
Due to the renewed attention on criminal justice
reform in Massachusetts, Attorney Hall urges voters to reframe how they think
about the criminal legal system and use their voice for the change that they
want to see within the system.