Prosecutors in a district attorney’s office in western Massachusetts will have professional development training on racism.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni has announced a partnership with the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley that is intended to help his staff recognize their biases and to do their work with both accused criminals and victims without prejudice.
"I am really proud of this partnership," said Gulluni. "It is groundbreaking and unique."
The institute works to combat racism through an intensive education program that focuses on the history of racism, its systemic nature, and understanding personal prejudices
Gulluni said he recently completed the institute’s signature two-day seminar, which he described as “a personally and professionally enlightening experience.”
" I will carry that experience as I go forward as district attorney and I am encouraged and excited that the prosecutors in my office will have a similar experience," said Gulluni.
All 80 assistant district attorneys in his office will participate in a specially-designed program.
" The folks will go through this with an eye to the issues of racism and bias and subjectively, particularly in the work they do as prosecutors each and everyday as decision-makers," explained Gulluni.
The partnership between the local prosecutor’s office and the anti-racism organization is significant given the criminal justice system’s fraught history with race.
" It is improving ourselves professionaly and its not an admission that anyone in our office, or I, have had any racist intent," said Gulluni when asked if the partnership was a response to past wrongs.
Waleska Lugo-DeJesus, director of the institute, said she began discussions with Gulluni shortly after he took office in 2015. She said the partnership between the prosecutor’s office and her organization is “a new day for the community.”
"This is not easy work, but it is necessary work," said Lugo-DeJesus.
Since the Healing Racism Institute started six years ago, more than 800 people have participated in the program.
" We have an impact at the macro-level because our participants go back to their work, their communities, their faith groups, and their families and really have candid conversations about race in a way they have not before," said Lugo-DeJesus.
The initiative is modeled after a program that started 15 years ago in Grand Rapids, Michigan.