Letter to the Editor

August 2, 2018
By

I will protect  the rights of every person

Being District Attorney is about more than just prosecuting crimes. According to a 2017 ACLU poll, 60 percent of Massachusetts voters were surprised to learn that District Attorneys can take away money and property from people even if they haven’t been convicted of a crime. This process is called civil asset forfeiture and it allows prosecutors to seize any property that police believe is connected to criminal activity following an arrest. Massachusetts laws regarding asset forfeiture are archaic. The Institute of Justice has given Massachusetts an “F” rating for its asset forfeiture laws and practices. This is shocking. Massachusetts is one of the most progressive states in the country. Massachusetts needs to be a leader in criminal justice reform, and Middlesex County needs a District Attorney who is going to make that happen.

When someone is arrested, the property they have (cash, cellphones, cars) can be permanently taken from them. Even if they are arrested for a low level offense. Even if the property does not belong to them.  Whose property gets seized? We don’t know. Is the kid from Everett treated the same as the kid from Weston? We don’t know. Where is the money spent? We don’t know. We’re not talking nickels and dimes. A 2015 audit report tells us that the Middlesex DA spent $1.2 million from the asset forfeiture funds, but we don’t know what it was spent on. What we do know is that there is currently no requirement for the District Attorney get a conviction before seizing assets. This can’t be what we want justice to look like.

On my first day as District Attorney, I will change asset forfeiture practices in Middlesex County. The District Attorney doesn’t need to wait for the legislature to pass different laws to make this change. No property will be “forfeited” until someone is convicted of a crime. It’s that simple. I will also release information about what property is taken and who the property is taken from (demographic data and convictions). Right now, we don’t know anything at all about how this money is spent. That’s information you deserve to know. I will prioritize using these funds to keep us safe and support diversion, rehabilitation, and training programs. We need to be sure that forfeited assets are used to benefit the community and remove financial incentives for unjust seizures.

Middlesex County needs a District Attorney who is going to step up and protect the rights of every person in the criminal justice system. I look forward to hearing from you on the campaign trail and seeing you at the polls on September 4th! I invite you to get in touch with my campaign at 857-529-7081 or to visit  www.donna4da.com to learn more about my vision for both safety and social justice as your next District Attorney.

 

Donna Patalano

Candidate for

District Attorney