Harrington catches Shugrue over inaccurate claims about police backing broken windows at Berkshire DA debate

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Holder Andrea Harrington and challenger Timothy Shugrue answered questions from panelists from iBerkshires, Berkshire Edge and WAMC on Pittsfield Community Television in the basement of the Berkshire Athenaeum.

Harrington was elected in 2018 on a progressive reform platform, while Shugrue draws on his 36 years of legal experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney.

WAMC asked Harrington and Shugrue to articulate their positions on prosecuting lower level offenses.

“There was a certain class of cases that really does more harm than good for us to pursue in court,” Harrington said. “And that’s an area where my office has made huge changes by not pursuing these low-level cases that really are driven by mental health issues, substance use disorders in poverty. benefits of this are well documented.There was a study that was done in Suffolk County that showed that 58% of people whose cases were dismissed, low level cases were dismissed, did not return in court within two years. So it’s really been shown that when a person enters the court system, they’re more likely to come back. And this study has really shown the positive benefits of that. It also builds trust in the community, so that when we investigate serious violent crimes, we have more confidence and we can get people to cooperate.”

“I believe in making progress, which is supposed to mean progressive, and progress is helping people,” Shugrue said. “I believe we have a statutory diversion system called chapter 276, section 87. I don’t believe in getting convictions for these people, but I believe in providing the resources that we have in the court system, the resources we have with probation, to get people the help they need. I know. I’ve dealt with drug addicts every day who have substance use disorders. It’s hard for them to get support and services. By providing these services through the justice system, we are doing two things. First, we are addressing the substance use disorder, and we are also addressing the underlying issue, regardless of was the reason we started using drugs.”

This prompted a sharp rebuttal from Harrington.

“People should be very concerned that they have someone who is a legitimate candidate for district attorney who doesn’t even understand the basic principle of harm reduction and doesn’t understand what all the science and research and what public health tells us, which is that the stigma and criminalization of substance use disorders, mental health issues and poverty only leads to failure,” she said. declared. “It’s a broken system. It comes down to what we’ve been trying for 40 years. Did not work. It has created huge racial disparities and cycles of poverty that must be broken. It has to end, and I really want this community to move forward instead of being dragged back into the past.

“We need a district attorney who’s experienced, who’s been in the game, who knows what’s going on day-to-day with people in the justice system,” Shugrue said. “We need a district attorney who can help people when they need it. Not someone who just talks politics and philosophies. I’ve seen him work. I’ve seen him as a representative of the accused for 20 years. I saw it when I sued. What we need to do is make sure we understand all the intricacies of being in this courtroom, because this courtroom is an important place. I have been there for 36 years. I have cared for and helped the individuals that they were, the marginalized defendants who were treated so badly.

The couple also clashed over a question about reducing gun violence in the community.

“I’ve seen over the past six months so many cases go down from what could be jail time to no jail time and go to trial,” Shugrue said. “That’s not okay for me. We can’t tolerate gun violence in our community. 15 shootings since February, that’s not okay for me, that shouldn’t be okay for you.

“That’s just not true,” Harrington said. “My office is very aggressively prosecuting gun cases here in Berkshire County. We send people to state prison, we send people to reformatories for long sentences. And yes, sometimes these Mandatory minimum sentences translate to 12, 15, 20 years in jail for a young person in a state prison. He has huge racial disparities. But there hasn’t been a single shooting in that community because my office made a mistake by not asking for someone to be detained.

As in her 2018, Harrington was challenged over her relative lack of courtroom experience.

“Well, the thing is, you tried a case in superior court as a district attorney. Even if it was a strong case, you lost it,” Shugrue said. “And your comment was that it was a good learning experience. The prosecutor’s office is not a place for on-the-job training, especially for the person at the top.

“There are very experienced lawyers on the Supreme Court who have reached the peak of their careers, and yet they have made decisions to take away women’s rights to reproductive health care,” Harrington said. “So, in and of itself, having experience doesn’t mean you’re going to achieve the vision and values ​​of the people in that community.

While Shugrue argued that his office would be mindful of systemic inequalities, Harrington called him a reactionary and tough-on-crime candidate.

“I’m sorry you can’t lobby for the broken windows police and say you care about racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” the DA said. “Because, you know, all the research, all the studies show that broken windows policing has been devastating to blacks and browns in this community and across the country. It’s led to mass incarceration. This n is not what this community will return to.

The broken windows theory of policing, introduced in the 1980s, promotes the targeting of minor crimes to deter more serious crimes. The controversial method was popularized by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 1990s.

“That’s the misinformation coming out of the Harrington campaign,” Shugrue replied. It doesn’t exist, we don’t believe in it. There were racial inequalities there. We have never once said that we support broken window policies”

“I have it on tape,” Harrington said. “So you know, I say this with good authority.”

“I want to hear this tape, because never in my life have I said the word broken windows,” Shugrue said. “It just didn’t come out. So that’s the misinformation that’s coming out of this campaign.

Like Harrington, WAMC also has Shugrue’s endorsement for police broken windows on tape. He came during a July 13e interview with William Sturgeon on WTBR’s “Morning Drive”.

“I go back to Wilson’s broken window theory, and it worked wonderfully in New York and several other big cities,” Sturgeon said.

“Absolutely,” Shugrue said. “It’s important that we address the issues. It doesn’t necessarily say that you have to be, you know, tough on these issues, but you have to be able to address them in the criminal justice system.

Shugrue doubled down on the concept later in the interview.

“I think just kicking the box is a mistake,” he said. “I think that’s important. And I agree with you, the broken window theory is a good example of that. That’s it, I think you really need to make sure that we look at things and deal with, rather than just ignoring them.

You can listen to the full debate here:

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