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Berkshire DA Harrington Promises Reform At Swearing-In

After months of campaigning and two electoral victories, Andrea Harrington was sworn in as Berkshire County's district attorney Wednesday morning.

Before a crowd that spilled out of the Berkshire Museum’s auditorium doors, Harrington was sworn into office by Retired Justice Francis Spina to begin her four-year term as Berkshire County’s first female DA. After a contentious election cycle that saw her best incumbent DA Paul Caccaviello in both the Democratic primary and the general election, Harrington takes over an office she promised to reform. She acknowledged former DAs David Capeless and Caccaviello – praising the former for his skills as a trial lawyer and the latter for his “well deserved reputation as a gracious opponent” – alongside the community activists present, whom she described as “the conscious of our community as they strive and push for racial justice, equality, economic justice, transparency, and accountability by speaking truth to power."

"It is with you where my heart lies," said the new DA, "and I know that you will not let me forget where I come from.”

Her remarks centered around her pledges to bring reform, inclusion, and transparency to an office that she decried as opaque and antiquated on the campaign trail.

“Despite the dedicated work of law enforcement, judges, probation court personnel, and many others, we continue to see the devastating effects of addiction, high rates of domestic and sexual violence, along with an alarming and rising rate of gun violence," said Harrington. "People of color and our LGBTQ+ friends remain overrepresented in the criminal justice system and are fearful of law enforcement.”

She asked the audience to imagine a Berkshire County free of those fears, and to join with her in making it a safer and more open community “because nobody else is going to do it for us.”

“Our community like many others across the commonwealth and the nation have at long last awoken to the truth that people of color have preached to us for generations now – that is that our system of justice can and must do better,” she told the audience.

During the campaign, Harrington said she would reopen unindicted sexual assault cases from the past 15 years.

“As the first female district attorney, I promise to commit the resources of my office to prosecute cases of sexual and gender based violence. I will work to build a culture in Berkshire County where victims are believed, and I will educate this community that testimony from a victim is valid evidence,” said the new DA.

She also addressed both the county’s increasing economic disparity and the need for greater collaboration between the criminal justice system and communities.

“One of the biggest challenges that our community must grapple with are the crimes of desperation, bred from despair and a lack of opportunity," said Harrington. "We will address this reality by routing low-level offenses out of the criminal justice system at the start. Where appropriate, we will make incarceration the exception and diverting people from prison the rule.”

She pledged to end the “devastating impact of the criminal justice system on poor people” by reducing the office’s reliance on cash bail and getting rid of prohibitively expensive fines and fees.

Harrington insisted her approach to prosecution would be equitable.

“Do not mistake reform for weakness," she said. "Fairness and safety are not a trade-off – they complement each other. Understand that in a democracy, people tend to value and uphold the law when they perceive it as fair. As a 21st century prosecutor, I will be pragmatic and will focus on the wellbeing of the communities that elected me.”

First Assistant DA Karen Bell and 11 assistant DAs were also sworn in.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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