Fighting for Worcester County
Protecting Our Community
Serving as Worcester County District Attorney, Joe Early, Jr. fights to ensure that the justice system best serves the residents of Worcester County. Joe’s focus on prevention outreach and diversion has successfully helped lower the crime rate, and his enduring dedication to removing the stigma surrounding opioid use disorder has led to innovations in court processes and increased access to treatment. Joe understands the complex issues facing residents of Worcester County and is working hard to protect communities every day.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
Joe Early, Jr. believes that to successfully combat the opioid epidemic, we must understand addiction as both a disease and a public health crisis in our communities. Joe understands the complexities of the issue and has become a leader in advocating for those most vulnerable by:
- Implementing a compassionate approach to dealing with the opioid epidemic, that is supportive of the guidelines recommended by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, by treating addiction as a disease and not a moral failing.
- Creating the Central Mass Opioid Task Force (over 300 members) which facilitates open forums throughout Worcester County uniting leaders in healthcare, government, law enforcement, education, and the treatment and recovery communities to spread evidence-based best practices throughout Worcester County.
- Securing over $3 million in grants which helped fund treatment programs, provide police departments with Narcan (a first responder drug that interrupts and reverses the process of opioid overdose, preventing fatalities), supply communities with prescription drop boxes to improve safe disposal practices, and other innovative approaches proven to save people’s lives
- Sponsoring billboards educating the public about the Good Samaritan law and encouraging people to lock up their medications.
- Partnered with local pharmacies and the Realtors Association, encouraging them to provide the public with informational flyers about locking up their medication and the importance of safe disposal practices.
- Prosecuting drug traffickers and dealers through a fair, yet tough and thorough hearing process.
Crime Prevention and Diversion Initiatives
Joe Early, Jr. believes it is better to prevent a crime than to have to solve one. He has consistently maintained that prevention is one of the most underfunded and underutilized tools in this fight. This is the philosophy behind the various educational, diversion and early intervention programs he has implemented around the County. Joe is dedicated to continuing the reduction of crime rates and strengthening Worcester County families and communities by providing young, at-risk individuals with options and resources to stay on a positive life track. His efforts include:
- Reducing juvenile crimes rates by investing over $1 million from drug crime seizures into activities and programs that keep young people engaged throughout the crucial hours of 3-6 p.m.
- Instituting the Diversion Community Service Program to give young (17-22), first time offenders the opportunity to avoid a criminal record by paying a fee, attending an educational course and performing community service.
- Placing the best and brightest assistant district attorneys in the Juvenile Court to provide guidance to young offenders, and to work with them to identify and correct destructive behavior.
- Facilitating Healthy Relationship workshops in schools to educate young people on how to identify, avoid and escape abusive and violent relationships.
- Educating young people on the real, legal consequences of their actions, including running mock trials in schools on relevant issues like cyberbullying, substance use disorder, operating under the influence, and dating violence.
- Providing workshops by the Mass Department of Children and Families on identifying when and how to safely file a 51A report of child abuse and neglect.
DA Early has instituted many successful crime prevention measures in Worcester County. He has placed the best and brightest assistant district attorneys in the Juvenile Court where they work with the court to help modify and change the behavior of young offenders. As a result, many kids have been positively influenced through working with the District Attorney’s Office, the courts, probation offices and various police departments to change and modify those bad behaviors.
Diversion programs such as team ride, an anti-shoplifting program, have had great success. The Worcester County DA’s Office is working on a partnership with the City of Worcester, the Worcester Police Department and the courts on family violence at the Worcester Teen Violence Prevention Initiative. Together, they are reducing crime and changing lives as juvenile delinquency numbers have gone down.
Prosecuting Violent Crime
DA Early has prioritized the prosecution of violent crime to get criminals off the streets. Having served as a prosecutor for 16 years, including 12 years as District Attorney, he has seen the devastating toll criminal activity can have on the lives of victims and their families. Since taking office, Joe continues to ensure that criminals are prosecuted, victims are fully protected, and justice is properly served. Joe works to achieve these goals every day by:
- Creating the unresolved homicide unit so no victim is forgotten. DA Early knows how important it is for families to know that their case is being worked and that their case always matters. The Worcester County DA’s Office has solved 20, 30 and 40-year-old murders because victims’ families pain never fades.
- Maintaining and evolving a dedicated Drug Prosecution Unit that actively identifies, detains and tries drug traffickers.
Through community outreach programs sponsored by DA Early, the Worcester County DA’s Office has served over 500,000 people in communities across Worcester County. The programs include:
- An annual Student Wellness Conference to promote good decision-making and positive choices for middle school and high school students.
- Anti-bullying and anti-harassment programs for students.
- Educational resources and presentations to prevent distracted driving, a leading cause of vehicular deaths involving young people.
- Drug and alcohol awareness programs for juveniles and seniors.
- A Drug Forfeiture Community Reinvestment program where assets and proceeds from drug cases are reinvested into public service projects in communities around the county.
- Internet safety and cybercrime awareness programs to protect residents from cyber predators and identity theft.
DA Early believes that robust community outreach is a vital tool in preventing crime. He has been to schools in every community in Worcester County spreading messages of prevention and giving students the information they need to make good decisions. The most requested programs focus on bullying and internet safety. The DA’s Office has programs that also address opioids and alcohol, safe dating, domestic violence and a host of other topics. DA Early has also instituted programs to help protect seniors from devastating financial scams, elder abuse and increase awareness around addiction and safe disposal practices.
Child and Family Advocacy
In any potential criminal prosecution, Joe Early recognizes that supporting and protecting victims and their families through the delicate, emotional process is just as important as bringing the perpetrator to justice. Joe protects victims by:
- Creating the first nationally accredited Children’s Advocacy Center in Worcester County, which holds defendants accountable and protects child victims of sexual abuse from enduring additional trauma through the court processes by making all questioning and witness processes as minimal and efficient as possible.
- Putting the best and brightest assistant district attorneys in the juvenile court to help protect children and ensure swift justice is served.
- Adding more trained victim witness advocates to help victims and families navigate the court system without adding additional trauma to their experience.
Criminal Justice Reform
As the District Attorney for Worcester County, DA Early supports a wide range of criminal justice reforms including diversion initiatives through which non-violent offenders are able to access and benefit from rehabilitation services; changes to reduce or eliminate the minimum mandatory sentences on low-level crimes; humane reforms to bail and solitary confinement practices; reducing the number of license suspensions to avoid creating artificial barriers to work and society. DA Early has also:
Increased transparency in the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office so residents know how the office is working on their behalf.
Taken a stand for comprehensive justice reform in Massachusetts, working with fellow district attorneys and government officials to make sure justice is served.