A graduate of Madison Park High School, UMass Amherst, and Howard University School of Law who has represented the Fifth Suffolk District, including his home neighborhood of Dorchester, since 2014, Evandro Carvalho isn’t running for his seat on Beacon Hill again. Instead, the Cape Verdean immigrant is one of several lawyers and assorted politicians who are squaring up to fill the open seat that longtime Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley will leave vacant upon leaving office. I recently interviewed Rep. Carvalho, along with Boston Praise Radio and TV host Judy Foster, on my WEMF Radio show The Young Jurks and have pulled out some relevant excerpts that show where he stands on cannabis and criminal issues.
On the extent to which Carvalho has been focused on criminal justice reform, as Mass passed a sweeping overhaul of its system just last week:
That’s been the focus of my tenure as a rep for the last four years, and that’s because I lived and grew up in Dorchester. I went to school in Roxbury, and after law school turned around and worked as an assistant district attorney in Roxbury. In terms of the issues of criminal justice, I’ve been in the trenches and understand them from so many different angles, going to so many different wakes, seeing lives lost to gun violence, and also going to prisons and seeing mass incarceration of brown and black men that look like me.
On police body cameras:
Yes, that looks like what will happen here. Body cameras won’t fix the issue, but it will increase the level of trust, it will increase the accountability.
On cannabis yoga, paint nights, etc. taking place in the area left gray by the Cannabis Control Commission not immediately moving to license events, on-site consumption, and delivery-only services, and whether law enforcement should bust and prosecute in these sorts of cases:
Cannabis is legal in this state, the voters have decided. As you know, [state politicians, following voters] changed things to create a new industry. … My focus is to do the best I can to make sure the people that got the short end of the stick don’t get the short end of the stick again. … For possession stuff I’ve seen, [there is] no way knowing somebody [has] a little more than an ounce … or just [is] over the limit. … The lens I have is, How do we heal the community that has substance abuse issues? The lens that someone like me brings to the table [is to] say, Wait a minute, oftentimes the policies are inherently biased.
On the backlog of unsolved murders and mothers who have been protesting:
I know many of those that have been protesting, including Mary Franklin, who I had a meeting with recently. I’ve done some of the rallies with her to speak on the issues. There’s two things happening here—one is unsolved murders, but also unsolved shootings. I think it’s a matter of resources and a matter of trust with the community. … How many police officers and detectives do we have on these cases? How many investigating cold shootings?
On changing the DA’s office:
Police usually arrest or summons somebody to court for a crime that the police believe the person did. The DA decides what that crime is, the disposition of the cases. The DA looks at the facts, we can dispose or dismiss; the DA is like life and death over the life of young men. If you get a felony for drug distribution, you can’t be a lawyer, you can’t get licensed [for many occupations] … say somebody got a charge for possession of cannabis, a class D … a young man in college, maybe they are even selling. You can look at that as possession, a misdemeanor, or you could charge them for a felony distribution. Or you can look at the entire situation and look at probation—the power is supreme. Let’s look at a restorative justice.
The DA’s role has been one of being reactionary. … I feel like we need a DA that is more for the community, from the community, more involved in the community. When we talk about how law enforcement works, the entire criminal justice system works, for the past two, three, four decades, it’s been law and order, tough on crime, and we know that hasn’t worked.