Meet America's New Most Reform-Minded DA: A Q&A with Rachael Rollins
Christopher Moraff
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November 9th, 2018

Christopher Moraff: Congratulations on your victory. Your election demonstrates that the revolutionary win by Larry Krasner in my city has the potential to gain steam. How would you describe this phenomenon? What has changed about the voters of cities like Boston and Philadelphia that their voters no longer see "law and orderism" as the way to fight low-level crime--particularly involving illicit drugs?

Rachael Rollins: Thank you. Voters in Suffolk County sent a very clear signal in this election that our criminal justice system is not working for too many people and it's time for a change. People recognize that criminalizing poverty, mental illness, and addiction doesn't work. We have a 67 percent recidivism rate and a system that does not treat all people the same--especially the poor, people of color and women.

I think the ACLU's "What a Difference a DA Makes" campaign has been tremendous, and really helped a lot of people understand these issues, and what we can do to change them. Also, our legislature just passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill that made significant, progressive and restorative changes that will help end wealth-, race- and gender-based disparities.

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Moraff: In Philadelphia, DA Larry Krasner has taken great strides to institute reform policies, including bail reform that eliminates cash bail for a number of non-violent offenses. However this does not extend to street drug dealers who sell fentanyl or fentanyl-contaminated products. In my experience, the distinction between people addicted to drugs and dealers is often false. In many cases, street drug dealers are addicted themselves; and they rarely know what's in the bags they sell at retail level. Can you comment on this gray area, and if and how your office will be different in your approach to bottom-of-the-chain, low-level drug dealers?

Rollins: Too often, as prosecutors, we have one tool in our toolbox--and that's incarceration. I want to use more tools. I want to eliminate cash bail and I want people to get the treatment they need so they don't come back into contact with the criminal justice system. That's why I've said that I will not criminalize addiction, poverty and mental illness. That will make us safer and truly help the people who need it. But we're going to look at every situation, and every individual, with common sense and a sense of humanity, because I think that being compassionate on crime is being smart on crime.
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