With less than a month left before the primary election, the Democratic candidates for Suffolk County district attorney staked out criminal justice policy stances Thursday before an audience of inmates and pre-trial detainees at the Suffolk County House of Correction.

Much of the 90-minute forum was dedicated to policy questions from the men and women housed within the institution, but simmering tensions spilled on to the stage at points.

The forum came a day after interim District Attorney Kevin Hayden, one of the two competing for a spot on the November ballot, publicly announced a grand jury investigation into an alleged MBTA Transit Police cover up. That announcement followed a Boston Globe report that questioned Hayden’s handling of the matter, which involved a white transit officer pulling a gun on a Hispanic man. The report was followed by a string of calls for Hayden’s resignation.

Hayden’s opponent, Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, tossed out reminders of the scandal at Thursday’s forum.

“The victim has come forward and essentially stated that he did not believe he could find justice without that Globe story having been written,” Arroyo said, adding that the MBTA Transit Police expressed a similar lack of faith in Hayden’s administration. They have called for an independent investigation.

“Prosecuting a case because you were called out by the Globe is not leading,” Arroyo said.

Hayden continued to defend his office’s handling of the incident, pointing to its status as an open case that predated his appointment.

“We are proceeding to the grand jury in that matter. That was a course of action and a determination that we had made, frankly, before the Globe event brought the issue to light,” interim DA Hayden said. “We will hold the conductors in that case accountable just like we would in any other case of police misconduct.”

The two men differed slightly on support for safe injection sites. Arroyo endorsed the idea without many stipulations, while Hayden hedged.

“There are many, many paths to recovery and I don’t profess to know or understand them all, so if safe injection sites are a right and appropriate pathway to recovery, then, they should be made available,” Hayden said, noting that he only considers people to be in recovery if they have stopped using drugs.

“If you are not fully healed, transformed by the renewing of your mind and relieved of that addiction such that you never use again, you’re not in recovery,” he said. “So, if safe injection sites are going to help you work towards recovery, then I believe there’s a place for that.”

Both men agreed that if the facilities ultimately come to Boston, they should not be concentrated in any one area of the city.

They both also pledged to look for alternatives to prosecution in prostitution cases when asked about sex trafficking victims being held and tried on prostitution charges.

Hayden indicated he would seek alternatives “for probably just about every single prostitution case that will come before the court,” while Arroyo said he would categorically decline to prosecute victims.

The two differed slightly when it came to a question of the DA’s office intersecting with immigration policy.

Hayden said “deportation and immigration consequences” are important to consider in criminal cases. He pointed to a case from when he worked as a criminal defense attorney. His client was the family breadwinner, so Hayden requested his client not be deported. That request was ultimately unsuccessful.

Arroyo pledged to create an immigration unit within the DA’s office to help attorneys understand how the charges they bring might intersect with a person’s immigration status.

He doubled down on his pledge to continue the standard of the previous administration and not prosecute certain low-level crimes. He also expressed positions against mandatory sentencing and bail for nonviolent offenses.

“Cash bail really only exists in a way that harms the poor,” he said, adding that he would push the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to end juvenile life without parole sentences.

Hayden signaled a willingness to examine life sentences generally, adding that the office “need[s] to look more holistically and more comprehensively at sentencing.”

The event was moderated by Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins, who is up for re-election. He will face Sandy Zamor Calixte, a former chief of external affairs and communications under Tompkins, in the Sept. 6 primary.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.