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    Rising call for justice reform stirs competition in DA races

    In Maria Cramer’s article about why district attorney’s races are more heated this year, a marketing professor suggests it’s displaced angst from Donald Trump’s election (“Typically sleepy races for DA heat up this year,” Page A1, March 5). I have been working to end mass incarceration in Massachusetts for five years, and I can vouch that the reasons are more local and realistic. Here are six:

    P A recent poll found that 73 percent of respondents believe our Commonwealth’s criminal justice system works differently for different people.

    P People who are entangled in our system tell many stories of decisions that seem arbitrary and counterproductive.


    P Adam Foss, a former Suffolk assistant district attorney, has sought to raise awareness of the role of prosecutors since his TED talk in February 2016.

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    P Legal scholar John Pfaff crunched the numbers and concluded that prosecutors’ decisions drove up prison populations.

    P Thousands of people and dozens of organizations have built a movement for a criminal legal system that is just, compassionate, and effective — and those three traits are intertwined.

    P Hundreds of activists heard district attorneys testify at the State House in favor of excessively punitive policies that contribute to appalling racial disparities.

    The new attention to district attorney elections comes from the same roots as the criminal justice omnibus bill, the campaign to treat drug addiction as a medical issue, and policing reforms aimed at countering unconscious bias: people’s desires for a justice system that is truly just.

    Lori Kenschaft


    The writer is coordinator of the Mass Incarceration Working Group of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington.