In keeping with its mission and vision of promoting safe and healthy communities and advocating for progressive prevention initiatives, NWDA staff from all units actively engage in community outreach endeavors throughout the district. Staff from the Elders and People with Disabilities, Consumer Protection, Child Abuse, Victim Witness, Community Outreach and Education units as well as our Drug Diversion and Treatment Program and assistant district attorneys work in partnership with cities and towns across the Northwestern district to address pressing social, legal and safety issues that can lead to crime. NWDA staff work closely with grassroots groups, community coalitions, youth-serving agencies and public and private schools to promote initiatives and offer educational programs and events that foster resilience and vibrant, thriving communities.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND EDUCATION
A vital function of this unit is to collaborate with schools, community coalitions and other community groups as a means of facilitating outreach and educational initiatives throughout the district. Specifically, the Community Outreach and Education Unit is responsive to changing community needs and works to identify and develop programs best suited for distinct communities by working closely with members of those communities.
The District Attorney’s Office is wholeheartedly committed to working in partnership with members of the community to actively seek out opportunities that focus on preventing crime that affect all citizens. Special emphasis is placed on the opioid epidemic, reduction of violence in the schools, promoting a safe and healthy school climate, Internet safety, civil rights and diversity awareness, youth substance abuse prevention and enhancing awareness of crimes against elders.
The unit offers presentations, trainings, guest speakers and consults on an array of issues of concern to the people of the Northwestern District.
Citizens Advisory Board
The mission of the Citizens Advisory Board is to advise and assist the Office of the Northwestern District Attorney in the areas of community outreach and education, crime prevention, community prosecution, civic engagement, social justice and civil rights issues by learning about office initiatives and serving as NWDA ambassadors in the community.
District Attorney Sullivan's staff works with schools in the district to create a comprehensive violence prevention plan that could include staff training, curricula and policy review. NWDA staff work with schools, agencies, youth groups, parents, police departments and other community members on issues such as safe and healthy school climates, underage drinking, distracted driving, teen dating violence and social host liability.
SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVES
Community Based Justice Program
The school-based CBJ programs bring together school personnel, public safety professionals, and social service providers in each community. CBJ meetings are convened by a member of the District Attorney's Office and provide a forum to share information about court-involved students, or those who might become court involved. The purpose of the meetings is to devise proactive ways to intervene in the lives of those youth and help steer them away from crime and violence. These sessions offer opportunities to develop bullying prevention strategies tailored to their unique environments.
Juvenile Court Delinquency and Prevention Unit
The Juvenile Court Delinquency and Prevention Unit aims to reduce youth violence and crime using a coordinated community approach which includes early intervention and prevention. In addition, the unit handles serious juvenile delinquents who are indicted as Youthful Offenders, thus making them subject to full adult criminal prosecution. The unit includes prosecutors and several victim-witness advocates.
The unit’s goal is to balance legal work in the form of prosecution of persons under age 17, with school and community-based prevention efforts. To carry out these goals the unit offers the following Juvenile Justice programs:
Juvenile Diversion Program
When appropriate, first time offenders under age 17 who commit minor criminal offenses will be referred to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Juvenile Diversion Program. The program is an alternative to the court system. Participating youth are assessed on an individual basis and may be required to attend and complete counseling/education programs, perform community service and, when applicable, pay restitution. Youth who successfully complete the Juvenile Diversion Program prior to arraignment, will have no court record. Cases not appropriate for diversion will be prosecuted through the Juvenile Court.
Safe School Response Team
The Massachusetts bullying law offers a definition of bullying, but as victims, educators and parents have learned, there is no specific criminal charge of bullying. Bullying behavior does fit specific criminal charges already in existence, however, such as Threat to Commit a Crime, Criminal Harassment, civil rights violations, and others.
Therefore, the NWDA developed a team of prosecutors, and victim-advocates to review certain complaints of bullying to determine if the behavior rises to the level of a criminal charge. The team is not a substitute for school investigations. Schools must still follow their own-state mandated policies as to bullying complaints and investigations. However, the NWDA team can help review that work and in addition, can provide information and support for parents and victims.
Members of the Safe School Response Team include Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Suhl, Juvenile Justice Unit Chief Elizabeth Mulcahy and Assistant District Attorneys Bruce Patryn and Elizabeth Swihart and Community Outreach and Education Director Laurie Loisel.