Harrington is joined on stage during the ceremony by her husband, Timothy Walsh, and their two sons Francis and Ennis.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Andrea Harrington believes that "hope is not blind optimism" but rather a choice.
The new district attorney was inaugurated Wednesday morning and said she can envision a county free of sexual and gender-based violence, free of gun violence, free of addiction, and a place where people of all colors and genders can feel safe and protected.
But she cautioned, "nobody else is going to do it for us."
After being sworn in by retired Supreme Judicial Court Justice Francis X. Spina, Harrington told a standing-room-only audience in the Berkshire Museum's Little Cinema that she is making the choice to be optimistic that a more just and safe Berkshire County can exist and that she'll work toward making that happen.
"If we can imagine a community that is safe and healthy, then we can achieve it by working shoulder to shoulder with like-minded, justice-leaning people who continue to do our work in the interest of justice," Harrington said.
Harrington takes the office as the county's first woman to hold the seat. She defeated incumbent Paul Caccaviello in November on a platform of reform. She had high praise for Caccaviello, with whom she's been working to transition her team into the office.
"District Attorney Caccaviello has lived up to his well-deserved reputation as a gracious opponent. He sets the standard for aspiring prosecutors for respectful and courteous conduct. With Paul, one cannot help but make a friend out of an opponent," Harrington said.
Harrington's new top prosecutor Karen Bell took her oath of office before Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Patricia Harris. New Deputy District Attorney Richard Dohoney and the new chief of appeals and legal counsel Jeanne Kempthorne also took oaths administered by Harris, alongside Assistant District Attorneys Joseph Brava, Colin Caffrey, Kyle Christensen, Andrew Giarolo, Jedd Hall, Allison Pash, Megan Rose, Megan Tesoniero, Veronica Van Tol, Stuart Weissman, and Joseph Yorlano.
That's the team Harrington is starting her first term with in her effort to build a "bold, 21st century" criminal justice system in Berkshire County.
"We will use the power of the district attorney's office to bring innovative solutions that challenge the criminal justice status quo in order to build a safer and healthier community," Harrington said.
"We will aggressively prosecute those who prey on others. 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. I will educate this community that testimony from a victim is valid evidence. We will work to ensure domestic abusers are prosecuted and held as the dangers they are."
Beyond that, Harrington vowed to work closely with community partners on efforts to prevent crime and to address crimes of desperation and a lack of opportunity.
"Where appropriate we will make incarceration the exception and diverting people from prison the rule. We will know that locking people up makes them more prone to committing offenses in the future. We understand our community is better served by interventions like drug and mental health treatment and restorative justice approaches where victims are harmed," Harrington said.
"We will implement a robust juvenile diversion program that treats kids like kids because children believe what we tell them and if we tell them they are criminals, they will take on that identity. We will end the devastating impact of the criminal justice system on poor people by reducing our reliance on cash bail and eliminating fines and fees that people cannot reasonably afford to pay."
She said she will push back on "cruel and misguided policies from Washington" and will consider the immigration consequences when deciding charges and sentencing for non-violent offenders.
"Do not mistake reform for a weakness. 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 well-being of the community that elected me," Harrington said.
The new First Assistant District Attorney Karen Bell takes her oath.
The Richmond Democrat recognized that there are significant challenges in the Berkshires that will take time to address.
"My family has deep roots here in Berkshire County and we are well aware of the challenges our community faces due to the sharp rise in income inequality. Nowhere do we see the effects of economic hardship more dramatically than in the courts of Berkshire County," Harrington said.
"Despite the dedicated work of law enforcement, judges, probation, court personnel, and many others we continue to see the devastating effect of addition, high rates of domestic and sexual violence, along with an alarming rate of gun violence."
Her husband, Timothy Walsh, jokingly gave her new colleagues some advice, such not to invite her to play on a softball team because she doesn't know much about sports, not to play against her in "Jeopardy" because she'll win, and not to ask her for directions.
But he praised the values of "integrity, accountability, perseverance, and discipline" her parents instilled in her.
"The issues that are before all of us today are not easy to solve in one day. I do know Andrea will be focused and determined as ever to do her part in providing the leadership and vision of this office that will contribute to a better Berkshire County for all," Walsh said.
City Councilor Helen Moon served as master of ceremonies. The national anthem was sung by Lily Lothrop and Pastor Akilah Edgerton sang "Lift Every Voice." Rabbi Liz Hirsch of Temple Anshe Amunium gave the invocation. The overflowing audience featured a number of prominent members of the community including the county's two mayors, Linda Tyer of Pittsfield and Thomas Bernard of North Adams. A reception was held in the Crane Room following the ceremony.
Harrington's full remarks as presented for delivery:
Citizens and Friends.
We gather today, unified in the hope, that by working together we will build a future where every single person in our community, from all walks of life, can enjoy peace, health and safety here in the home that we love.
It is fitting today that we acknowledge the work of those who have striven for a present and a future where we are safe and free.
I would like to honor the memories of those who are no longer with us, but who have made a lasting mark on our community through their public service. The first ever Berkshire County District Attorney Anthony Ruberto and his successor, the beloved Gerald Downing. I thank Senator Downing for joining us today and I hope that my own sons will be so inspired to work to serve this community as the Senator has done so admirably.
I would very much like to welcome and to thank both District Attorney Capeless and District Attorney Caccaviello for their long standing service and commitment to Berkshire County. The Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office has seen no finer, nor more effective trial lawyer than David Capeless. Achieving excellence as a trial attorney requires rigorous focus. District Attorney Capeless has met that challenge time and again in his work to bring justice to the people of Berkshire County.
The Berkshire County District Attorney’s office has likewise seen no truer gentleman than Paul Caccaviello. District Attorney Caccaviello has lived up to his well-deserved reputation as a gracious opponent. He sets the standard for aspiring prosecutors for respectful and courteous conduct. With Paul, one cannot help but make a friend out of an opponent. I am truly grateful to him for his kindness and support during the transition.
I would like to thank members of the judiciary, and court personnel that have joined us today. We are honored by your presence. These are the people who work day in and day out without fanfare and with tremendous dedication to uphold the rule of law and to bring justice to our community.
And our local law enforcement who maintain the highest standards of professionalism and who have shown a willingness to adapt and engage with the community in new ways to build the trust needed to create safer and healthier communities. I thank you for being here today and I look forward to joining you in your work.
I also want to honor the presence of the many community activists here with us. My friends, the rabble rousers- who serve as the conscience 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. I know that you will not let me forget where I come from.
I would like to especially thank my family. My grandparents Anthony & Janet Blasioli and my grandmother Mary Harrington, and my parents Susan & Bill Harrington. My family taught me the value of hard work and that the true meaning of life is to commit to a purpose that is greater than myself. And to my husband Tim and my Frankie and Ennis who give me courage.
That we have all come here together today is a testament to the strength of our community.
Like many of you, my family has deep roots here in Berkshire County and we are all well aware of the challenges that our community faces due to the sharp rise of income inequality. Nowhere do we see the effects of our economic hardships more dramatically than in the courts in Berkshire County.
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. People of color and our LGBTQ+ friends remain overrepresented in the criminal justice system and are fearful of law enforcement.
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 our system of justice can and must do better.
These challenges are daunting but more than anything, every person in this room today gives me hope that we can build a safe and healthy community for every person in Berkshire County.
A friend taught me that “Hope is a practice”. Hope is not blind optimism in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Hope is a choice sustained by 1) surrounding ourselves with like-minded, justice-leaning people, 2) continuing to do our personal part in the work of justice and 3) the knowledge that a different world is absolutely possible.”
I ask you to imagine a Berkshire County that is free of sexual and gender based violence, free of gun violence, a County where we don’t fear that our children will fall prey to addiction, and where people of all colors and genders and sexual orientation feel safe and protected.
I can imagine it and I ask that the people in this room work shoulder to shoulder with me to achieve it. Because nobody else is going to do it for us.
As the District Attorney, I vow to do my part and that the people with me on this stage and in the District Attorney’s office will join me in that effort.
We will use the power of the District Attorney’s office to bring innovative solutions that challenge the criminal justice status quo in order to build a safe and healthy community.
We will aggressively prosecute those who prey on others. 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. We will work to ensure that domestic abusers are prosecuted and held as the dangers that they are.
I vow to do more than prosecute dangerous criminals and put people behind bars. I vow to work with community partners to prevent crime from happening because that is how we will truly have a safe and healthy community.
One of the biggest challenges that our community must grapple with are the crimes of desperation bred from despair and a lack of opportunity.
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. We well know that locking people up makes people more prone to committing offenses in the future. We understand that our community is better served by interventions like drug and mental health treatment, and restorative justice approaches where victims needs are honored.
We will implement a robust juvenile diversion program that treats kids like kids because children believe what we tell them and if we tell them that they are criminals, they will take on that identity.
We will end the devastating impact the criminal justice system has on poor people by reducing our reliance on cash bail and eliminating fines and fees that people cannot reasonably afford to pay.
We will refuse to be passive in the face of cruel and misguided policies from Washington. We will consider the immigration consequences in charging and sentencing for non-violent offenses to help our friends and neighbors avoid unjust deportation.
This approach is the essence of a bold, 21st century vision of prosecution.
Do not mistake reform for weakness. 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 well-being of the communities that elected me.
My vision for a modern approach to prosecution here in Berkshire County is part of a larger movement that has swept across the Commonwealth and the nation. Most importantly, it is a transparent, pragmatic approach to the the tough challenges that our community faces.
I don’t pretend that the task at hand is easy. But if we can imagine a community that is safe and healthy, we can achieve it by working shoulder to shoulder with like-minded, justice-leaning people who continue to do our part in the work of justice.
My vision for the role of the District Attorney is informed by my experience of growing up here in Berkshire County, by my conviction that women’s pain matters, by my work in the courts, and by my sense of responsibility to protect my and all of our children.
I know that I am not alone in feeling that we live in times of peril both locally and nationally. I have seen the looks of anguish on many parents faces as they worry about their children who struggle with addiction. I have spent time on the West side listening to residents concerns about violent crime. What is playing out nationally right now is not the America that I thought we were. I will always remember the feeling that I had late into the evening on November 8, 2016,when I looked in on my sleeping boys and as I watched them curled up together in my bed, the feeling that my generation, generation X, had failed to protect our children. We let them down. But rather than give into despair, it is up to us to double down by working to change the things that we can.
While these realities are sobering, we are also living in a time of great opportunity for Berkshire County and for Massachusetts to lead the way on building a criminal justice system that is based on both fairness and justice. We are part of a national movement for smart, effective, fair, criminal justice reform.
Berkshire County can and should be a shining example of modern 21st century fair and just prosecution.
I am humbled and honored by the privilege to serve my community that I love as your District Attorney. I thank you for your faith in me and I ask for your partnership in building a safe and healthy community for all of us where our children can flourish and can return to raise their families.
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