Boston, MA– A group of over 20 U.S. prosecutors, including Boston’s Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, will be touring Portugal and Germany this month to learn about their criminal justice systems and the impacts of drug decriminalization, reports Marijuana Moment. Also attending from Massachusetts is DA Andrea Harrington of Berkshire County.  

In a press release about the trip, Rollins stated: “The evidence is clear that our country’s decades-long approach to incarceration is not working. We need to look for innovative solutions to deliver more sensible approaches – and a paradigm shift away from punitive responses – that our communities are demanding.”

Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001. Since then, the country’s incarceration rates have gone down and public health measures have gone up now that drug abuse is treated like a public health issue instead of a crime. Germany also attempts to find solutions other than prison for drug offenders, particularly for young people, with a focus on treatment and rehabilitation rather than punishment.

While on the trip, the prosecutors will visit courts and health service providers; tour prisons and treatment facilities; and meet with law enforcement leaders, judges, public health officials, international experts and individuals with experience in the criminal justice system.

With this context, our elected officials aim to bring back ideas from the success of these programs for how our country and local governments can reduce incarceration rates and improve our criminal justice system. The U.S. population makes up only 5 percent of the world’s total population, yet a staggering 25 percent of all incarcerated persons globally are in the U.S.  

Below is a tweet from Rollins while in Berlin:

The trip was organized by the U.S. advocacy group Fair and Justice Prosecution. FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky said in the press release: “Elected prosecutors around the [U.S.] are grappling with how to redefine justice and shrink the footprint of the justice system, while making communities safer and healthier. They are shifting away from punitive criminal justice responses to substance use and mental illness and embracing smart and proven public health solutions.”

Some harm reduction strategies currently proposed in Massachusetts include the creation of safe injection sites, but U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling has made it clear that he would prosecute such centers under federal law, even if they became legal in the state.

Image via Wikimedia Commons / Swampyank