Let’s go all out to pass the Massachusetts Senate’s criminal justice bill (S2170). Our criminal justice system is badly in need of reform, with a prison population four to five times larger than four decades ago, and incarceration rates that disproportionately affect black and Hispanic residents. We have the highest Hispanic-to-white disparity in the US and a higher than average disparity between blacks and whites. The Senate bill goes a long way toward addressing these issues, but the House appears to be considering a much more conservative bill.
Key provisions of the Senate bill:
- Removal of mandatory minimums for offenders for nonviolent drug violations.
- Expansion of diversion eligibility.
- Elimination of some court fees, such as the indigent counsel fee and parole fees.
- Complete overhaul of the bail system, ensuring bail will be more affordable to all defendants.
- Protections for inmates in solitary confinement.
- Raise of the age of criminal majority and criminal culpability.
- Sealing of criminal records (CORIs) after 3 years for misdemeanors and 7 years after felonies; seals juvenile records after 1 year.
- Lift of the felony theft threshold to $1,500 from $250.
- Requirement for the court to make written findings before sentencing a primary caretaker.
This is our best chance for meaningful criminal justice reform in Massachusetts. We can’t allow the House to undercut it. Let’s act now by calling or writing our House representatives and telling them we strongly support the Senate’s bill and we want the House to enact its provisions in their version of the bill. For bonus points, tell your senator to do everything possible to ensure the criminal justice bill passes the Senate by a margin big enough to force the House to support similar reforms.
The ACLU has pointed out some flaws in the Senate criminal justice bill. You'll find them outlined here.
Last chance to tell Homeland Security what we think of its plan to include “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” in the immigration files of all immigrants, including permanent residents and naturalized citizens. You can comment on the plan at Regulations.gov through October 17. See our October 2 post for details.
It’s time to push to get the Mass Safe Communities Act out of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and onto the floor for a vote. The bill’s hearing was all the way back in May, this summer's Lunn decision supported key provisions, the Trump administration’s been stepping up its targeting of immigrants in Massachusetts—and still the SCA sits in committee.
We need to tell our legislators to push for the bill. Progressive Massachusetts has info on each legislator’s stand as well as basic scripts tailored to those stands. Let’s add our own twist to the scripts by urging our legislators to pressure the committee chairs to report out the bill favorably so the legislature can finally vote.