DAs have good reason to push back at crime bill

In an editorial this month supporting the state Senate’s criminal justice reform bill, the Globe noted that “several” district attorneys signed a letter in opposition to parts of the Senate effort. It was actually nine of the Commonwealth’s 11 elected district attorneys who signed.

District attorneys speak to their constituents all the time. I have never heard a member of the public tell me that I should go easier on the drug dealers pouring these deadly substances into their communities. On the contrary, I speak to the parents whose children are dead from an overdose. I can assure you that it is a very different conversation.

The district attorneys were the moving force in 2012 to raise the amount of drugs necessary to trigger a minimum mandatory drug sentence, and to lower thesentences by 25 percent.


It is the district attorneys who run robust diversion programs and have done so for years. In my own district, thousands of kids and young adults have been diverted from the criminal justice system by programs I’ve run.

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It is the district attorneys who actually have examined the criminal records of all of those serving a prison sentence for drugs. There were 1,217 in Massachusetts on July 31. Of that number, 74 percent had a history of violence or firearms charges, and 79 percent had a history of drug charges. These offenders represent 51,649 arraignments, or an average of 42 arraignments per offender. These are the career criminals who should be in prison.

It is the thoughtful employment of our criminal laws by elected district attorneys that has made our state 49th in the nation in the rate of incarceration while, at the same time, we have seen decreasing crime over the last 10 years.

Michael O’Keefe

District attorney

Cape & Islands district