- Berkshire District Attorney's Office
Media Contact for Ending Cash Bail in Berkshire County
Dennis Yusko, Communications Director
Pittsfield — Placing Berkshire County at the front of a national reform effort, District Attorney Andrea Harrington announced on Sunday that she had enacted a set of policies and practices to replace the ineffective cash bail system that has created unequal tiers of justice in America.
Making good on a promise she made before taking office in January, DA Harrington said the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office will pursue new and modern approaches to ensure individuals that commit non-dangerous offenses return to court. The cash bail system allows those that are able to pay bail to go free prior to resolving a case, while those who can’t afford it languish in jail, sometimes for months, with devastating consequences.
“Detaining people pretrial who pose no danger to the community based solely on their financial condition not only erodes the presumption of innocence but also undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system,” DA Harrington wrote Sunday in The Berkshire Eagle. She said Berkshire County will be a model for the safe and effective elimination of the cash bail system.
Last month, DA Harrington challenged the constitutionality of cash bail by joining with more than 80 present and former prosecutors, law enforcement officials, Department of Justice leaders and judges in filing a brief in Daves v. Dallas County, a case being heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals. The District Attorney then instructed prosecutors in the Berkshire DA’s Office to seek bail only in the rare instances when a defendant is a flight risk and there are no other reasonable conditions to ensure their appearance in court. Under Massachusetts law, the only reason a defendant can be required to post cash bail is to assure their reappearance in court.
The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office recently implemented a system to track bail requests to ensure consistency and transparency, and is working with courts and the legislature to develop effective methods of reminding defendants of upcoming court dates. DA Harrington is also working to obtain adequate funding for pretrial services. For those that pose a danger to the community, the Berkshire District Attorney will continue to aggressively utilize the state’s dangerousness statue as a mechanism for detainment. The law allows courts to hold defendants without bail and leaves the ultimate decision about detention in the hands of a judge.
An attorney at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program told The Berkshire Eagle that DA Harrington’s plan is “certainly on the forefront of what the DA’s offices are doing across the country.”