ACLU releases DA report card rubric

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BOSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts plans to grade the state's district attorneys on transparency, fairness, racial justice and other matters as part of a new education campaign aiming to inform voters about the roles that elected prosecutors play in the justice system.

Launched on Wednesday, the "What a Difference a DA Makes" report card will also include metrics on accountability, law reform, community engagement and fiscal integrity, with scores based on information received from the offices' response to public records requests, media and a review of cases, according to the ACLU.

Rahsaan Hall, head of the racial justice program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, will manage the campaign. Its goal is to educate voters so they are more engaged in local DA races, which are often overshadowed by other contests.

The campaign follows a July ACLU poll in which 48 percent of respondents said the criminal justice system was working and 73 percent said it works differently for different people. The survey found people had "limited knowledge of district attorneys' power, budgets and that they are essentially accountable only to voters," according to the ACLU, and 81 percent said they were more likely to pay attention to their local district attorney race after learning about the power of the office.

The ACLU and district attorneys are often at odds on criminal justice policy. Some DAs voiced concerns over repeals of mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes — which the ACLU supports — in justice reform bills that are now before a House-Senate conference committee.

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