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DA Hopeful's 'Do Not Prosecute' List Has Critics Saying She's 'Soft On Crime'

JAMAICA PLAIN (CBS) - The Democratic Nominee for Suffolk County District Attorney is responding to allegations that she is "soft on crime."

Rachael Rollins won the democratic nomination on September 4th, and has since come under fire for her "Decline to Prosecute" list, a policy change that would involve less jail time and bail for what she calls 15 "non-violent" crimes.

On the list: shoplifting, property damage, possession of drugs, and possession with intent to distribute. The latter has garnered criticism for the DA-hopeful, given the opioid epidemic and the overdose deaths of 259 Suffolk County residents in 2017. In an interview, Rollins agreed it's likely the most controversial charge on the list, and said she would be open to removing it from the list after conversations with law enforcement and employees in the court system.

Rachael Rollins
Rachael Rollins (WBZ-TV)

Rollins says the inspiration for the "list" came from conversations with prosecutors and judges, as she asked them what was "bogging down" the system. Rather than keep non-violent criminals in jail on the taxpayers' dime, she says, they can be rehabilitated through programming and community service, by, in her words, "diverting those cases to services to get them help or some sort of restitution."

The president of the Boston Police Patrolman's Association said he's fearful of the consequences of the controversial proposal. "I fear that officers will begin to see even more aggressiveness than we already face on a daily basis," Michael Leary said in an email to WBZ News. "I'm afraid if there are no consequences offenders will figure, why not resist? Our job is already dangerous. It's unbelievable to think people are willing to make it more dangerous for us."

Rachael Rollins' 'Decline To Prosecute' list (WBZ-TV)

Rollins said she's disappointed to hear from law enforcement not personally or by phone, but through multiple media reports. "This I think is a really good example of how I feel like communities of color feel law enforcement handles them. Rather than coming to me and speaking to me about something they disagree with me about, they went to the [newspaper] and had a story," she said.

Leary, on the other hand, says the newspapers contacted him, and that he did try to reach out to the nominee. "She didn't answer her phone [and] her mailbox was full so I couldn't leave a message," he wrote to WBZ in an email.

The controversial list brought praise to Rollins from former President Barack Obama. In a Friday speech at the University of Illinois, he said, "Do what they just did in Philadelphia and Boston, and elect state attorneys and district attorneys who are looking at issues in a new light."

"I was like…'this is not real,'" Rollins said when she heard about the speech.

Rachael Rollins will face independent Michael Maloney in November.

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