Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley announced today he will not seek re-election this fall.
Sixteen years ago today, I walked into 1 Bulfinch Place for the first time as Suffolk County District Attorney. I had been sworn in the prior afternoon and was greeted warmly, as so many of you have been on your first day on the job, by Lupita Donovan. As only the 14th District Attorney in Suffolk County history, my personal goal was to be an honorable steward of this great office, where I had once been a line assistant district attorney. My professional goal was to lead the office in service to victims, their families, and our community, and to do it with the highest levels of honesty, integrity and fairness.
Sixteen years later, I believe I have met these goals, but I believe even more that each and every one of you has, as well. Today, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office is a national standard bearer for what it means to be an honorable, innovative, and forward-thinking prosecutor’s office.
Over and over, we’ve launched initiatives that were years ahead of their time. It was here in 2004 that the most sweeping eyewitness evidence reforms in modern history were undertaken to prevent erroneous convictions – a gold standard that formed the basis for what the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court would adopt a decade later. In 2005, we adopted policies and practices that would bring unparalleled transparency to the way we investigate police-involved shootings; thirteen years later, few prosecutors’ offices in the country come close to what we do. The decision here in 2006 to treat prostituted youth as victims, not offenders, set the stage for the Safe Harbor provisions of the Human Trafficking legislation signed into Massachusetts law five years later. Legislation granting post-conviction access to and testing of evidence for DNA was based on practices we voluntarily adopted in this office a decade earlier.
We introduced an era of innovation and improvement with the creation of our Conviction Integrity Program; our expansion of the Grand Jury to build the best and most accurate cases, often before an arrest was even made; the robust mandatory training program we created for our prosecutors; our presumptive discovery practices that exceed state and federal requirements; expansion of the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against children; landmark Anti-Gang/Witness Intimidation Legislation that created the Witness Protection Program; creation of the Gun Court, eliminating some 350 gun cases languishing in our municipal courts; establishment of a Family Justice Center that now serves more than 9,000 victims and fills over 1,500 multi-disciplinary training slots each year; and on and on and on. Early last year we created the Juvenile Alternative Resolution program, or JAR, the most far reaching, comprehensive and ambitious juvenile diversion program in the entire country, giving even higher-risk young offenders a genuine chance at redemption in society. Late last year we launched the Road to Recovery program, a chance for people addicted to illicit substances – any illicit substances – to enter treatment instead of traditional prosecution.
As I have said from my first days as District Attorney: All success is shared. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the initiative, innovation, and leadership of so many prosecutors, advocates, investigators, and other professionals who have been so integral to my administration. Thanks to all of you, Suffolk County is now one of the safest, most livable urban areas in America, very different from the Boston I grew up in and much safer than when I was prosecuting homicide, gang, and other cases of violence in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Working in partnership with police, community based nonprofits and neighborhood groups, our smart-on-crime approach of reserving jail cells for the most violent, high-level, and recidivist offenders, in combination with our groundbreaking work in specialty courts and prosecutor-led diversion, has reduced violent crime and incarceration rates to historic lows. Massachusetts is one just six states in the country to reduce crime and incarceration by more than 25% over the past eight years. Our adult incarceration rate fell 9% last year, compared to just 2% nationally, and our juvenile commitment rate has fallen an incredible 75% over the last 15 years to reach the third-lowest rate in the country. Here in Suffolk County alone, we’ve cut the population at the Suffolk County House of Correction by 40% over the past five years. Equally important, we accomplished all of this not by cracking down but by raising up; raising the spirits of the victims we serve, raising the prospect of redemption for so many offenders, and, critically, raising the standards by which we as prosecutors conduct ourselves.
Today our office is fairer, more progressive and more transparent that at any time in its history. As I’ve gone about my daily life I have been approached by too many people to count who have thanked me for the job we’re doing each and every day to keep them safe. It is so humbling to hear directly from so many of the people we serve who trust in our judgment and approve of our work. These moments are always uplifting, because they give me the opportunity to praise you, the men and women who have earned that trust in courtrooms and classrooms and in our communities every day.
At the same time, it is never far from my mind that the nature of our work is serving victims and other people in crisis. I can’t help but think back on Trina, Stephen, Kai Leigh, Kimberly, Bella, and so many others. Too many lives lost, too many lives damaged, too many voices silenced. Speaking for them, and for those who loved them, is at the core of who we are and what we do.
For the past many months I have spent long hours contemplating a run for a fifth term as District Attorney. I still love my job and feel so privileged to lead such a magnificent group of professionals in common purpose. My love and affection for this office runs deep - not only through these past 16 years, but to my first days as a young Assistant District Attorney. This office has been a central part of my life for more than 33 years. It has given me so much and I have always tried to give it my very best in return.
I have determined, however, that I will not seek another term as Suffolk District Attorney in 2018. This decision has not been an easy one, but it is the right one. I have long believed that we who are privileged to lead and serve as elected officials must also be willing to give others an opportunity to do the same. I recognize that there are remaining challenges and I have no doubt that if I chose to run again, that together we would rise to meet them. As I said at the outset, however, the goal I set for myself was to be an honorable steward of this great office. It is in keeping with this obligation that I leave the opportunity to lead to the next District Attorney, and the opportunity to choose a course to the great people of Suffolk County. My hope is that the people will choose wisely and that the next District Attorney will take our office to even greater success than we have enjoyed these past 16 years.
My intention is to serve out the remainder of my term. All I ask is that that you continue to do your jobs with honesty, integrity, and professionalism and this will remain the high standard to which you will be held. In addition, if you love the work you do here, I urge you to stay with it during this time of transition. Sixteen years ago when I walked through the door as the new District Attorney, I inherited an office that was overwhelmingly comprised of good people and great professionals, and I invited everyone to join me in the important work ahead. My successor, whoever he or she may be, will inherit the same and will need (and, frankly, be fortunate to have) outstanding public servants like you. I hope in the months ahead I will be able to thank you personally, but please know how grateful I am to you for your unparalleled service to victims and for the unyielding honesty and integrity in which you go about your duties. I remain incredibly proud to be your leader.
All the best,