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Letter: Harrington Will Stand Against Injustice
Letter to the Editor,
02:43PM / Monday, August 20, 2018
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To the Editor:

The district attorney race in our community is significant. Many have dedicated their life work preventing or making efforts to eradicate injustices in our criminal justice system.

Bryan Stephenson, a widely known lawyer and activist, stated at a TED Talk "many understand that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice. We cannot be fully evolved human beings until we care about human rights and basic dignity. That all of our survival is tied to the survival of everyone. That our visions of technology and design and entertainment and creativity have to be married with visions of humanity, compassion, and justice." He has dedicated his life to eradicating the inequity in our criminal justice system.

He states, well I've been trying to say something about our criminal justice system. This country is very different today than it was 40 years ago.

In 1972, there were 300,000 people in jails and prisons. Today, there are 2.3 million. The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We have seven million people on probation and parole. And mass incarceration, in my judgment, has fundamentally changed our world. In poor communities, in communities of color, there is this despair, and there is this hopelessness, that is being shaped by these outcomes.

One out of three black men between the ages of 18 and 30 is in jail, in prison, on probation or parole. In urban communities across this country — Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington — 50 to 60 percent of all young men of color are in jail or prison or on probation or parole. This is indeed a crisis in our nation!

"Our system isn't just being shaped in these ways that seem to be distorting around race, they're also distorted by poverty. We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes. And yet, we seem to be very comfortable. The politics of fear and anger have made us believe that these are problems that are not our problems. We've been disconnected"

According to The Sentencing Project, an advocacy group that studies racial disparities in criminal justice, black Americans are more than 5 times more likely than whites to be in imprisoned, awaiting court is not included in this number.

Berkshire County defendants are released on far lower bail; however, with a $5,000 median for black defendants and a $1,000 median for white defendants, the disparity is even larger.

I believe many in our community share the vision of equity and justice for all; Maya Angelou, said, "when we know better we do better."

It is time we do better, for example, we need to address the opiate issues in a compassionate manner and address the injustices perpetrated against marginalized communities. Andrea Harrington's career, beliefs, and experience reflect this type of commitment.

The Criminal Justice Reform Act, has forced a conversation on injustices, the three candidates at the debate hosted by the NAACP on Aug. 1, 2018, deliberated on this grave concern.

I was stunned by the closing remarks of Judith Knight who named young people of color she represented and suggested she has a mandate as a social justice activist. This was deceitful!

Please don't use your privilege to define the experience and sense of justice that those of us in marginalized groups live daily.

Some in the community struggle with fighting injustices every day. Many have been retaliated against, our children's well-being threatened, character threatened, employment threatened in our efforts to speak truth to power. Please don't belittle our commitment and sacrifices.

Since the DA election in 2006, Judith Knight, we have marched against gun violence, mourned untimely deaths of some of our most precious possessions, our children. We have fought injustices through rallies, protests and participated in enriching conversations to educate, build community and bring awareness. We have advocated for seats at the decision making tables, negotiated opportunities and policy changes on behalf of the community; I don't remember you being present. Please don't confuse or misrepresent your role as an attorney, thank you for those paid services.

If you identify as an ally, the definition states, a person who is "a member of an advantaged social group who takes a stand against oppression, works to eliminate oppressive attitudes and beliefs in themselves and their communities and works to interrogate and understand their privilege." It is a person that lifts up, they don't exploit or violate confidentiality and they respect the freedom and rights of individuals to choose whom they support and how they vote.

I will be voting for Andrea Harrington as the district attorney for Berkshire County, who is committed to using the powers of the DA office to promote public safety, achieve justice and fight structural racism.

Shirley Edgerton
Pittsfield, Mass.

 

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