Monthly Archives: May 2014

Driver’s licenses within reach

THANKS to a massive statewide effort, the Senate passed the amendment to change the law to allow a person who served time for a drug offense to be allowed to obtain a driver’s license upon release.

There are few more steps to get it through the Massachusetts State Legislature, and we must sit tight and hope for the best.

We must continue to make our collective voices heard. Attend a Judiciary Committee hearing at the Statehouse Wednesday,  May 28, 1 pm, hearing room A-2 on the first floor. The Committee will hear testimony on whether the state will change the law from offering a parole hearing every five years for those sentenced to second-degree life in prison, 15 years to life, to holding a hearing every ten years.

Such a change would take the state backwards and further enmesh the Commonwealth in mass incarceration.  We must make our voices heard tomorrow.


Imagine life without a driver’s license

What would you do without a driver’s license if you lived outside of a city with transit? How would you get to work?

Massachusetts state law mandates that people convicted of a drug crime lose their licenses for five years after release from prison, and must pay $500 to reinstate it. Both hardships for formerly incarcerated people add to the struggle to become employed taxpayers.

EMIT is working to change this injustice. State senators need to hear from across the state, to support the amendment to the Senate Budget proposed by Sen. Harriet Chandler, D-Worcester. Laws sometimes get passed by amendments to other bills.

We are targeting 22 state senators on May 16, 19 and 20, who need encouragement to return justice to those who want a second chance. We especially need callers to join the phone blitz who live outside of Route 128, from all over the state. 

Below is the “ask” and a list of senators who need to hear from us. Ideally, people will call who live in those senators’ districts. Don’t let that stop you! Ask friends who live in those districts to make a call. Find state legislators here.

You can also call your senator, as well as Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, 617-722-1500, and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steven Brewer, D-Barre, 617-722-1540.

Five to 10 calls get a legislator’s attention. Your call will impact this campaign. Please take five minutes to help. Ask five friends to do the same. It’s a small change that makes a big difference to returning citizens.  CALL on May 16, 19 and 20.

Here’s the info. THANKS!


I’m calling to ask you to take a minute to advocate on behalf of people who have few advocates, to remedy an unjust law.

 Imagine how difficult your life would be if unable to drive. How would you work or do much else? Formerly incarcerated people convicted on a drug offense must pay at least $500, often more, to reinstate their driver’s license.

Would you take a minute to join a statewide movement to correct this injustice and make it easier for returning citizens to become employed taxpayers?

I am calling to urge Sen. _________________ [see list below] to support budget amendment 659 by Sen. Harriett Chandler to eliminate three sanctions against returning citizens who have been convicted of a drug offense: a license suspension of one to five years; an RMV* fee of $500 or more to reinstate the license; and references to drug offenses and warrants on an individual’s driving record.

The exorbitant fee of $500, (often more), is a hurdle for a returning citizen to re-join the ranks of employed taxpayers.

Obtaining a driver’s license without a $500 penalty increases the likelihood that a returning citizen will find a legal job and avoid returning to prison. Mass INC** estimates that for every 5 percent reduction in recidivism, the state saves $150 million per year.

Please join your Senate colleagues to restore justice by eliminating this RMV fee.

*Registry of Motor Vehicles

**Page 6, Mass INC free report: Crime, Cost and Consequences, Is it time to get smart on crime?

Senators to target

All numbers begin with 617-722
Stephen Brewer 1540 Barre
Gale Candaras 1291 Wilbraham
Eileen Donoghue 1630 Lowell
Benjamin Downing 1625 Pittsfield, all Berkshire county
Barry Finegold 1612 Andover
Jen Flanagan 1230 Leominster
Don Humason 1415 Westfield
Brian Joyce 1643 Milton
John Keenan 1494 Quincy
Thomas Kennedy 1200 Brockton
Joan Lovely 1410 Salem
Mike Moore 1485 Worcester & suburbs
Richard Moore 1420 Worcester & south
Therese Murray 1500 Plymouth
Kathleen O’Connor Ives 1604 Newburyport
Anthony Petruccelli 1634 E. Boston
Michael Rodrigues 1114 Fall River
Richard Ross 1555 Wrentham
Mike Rush 1348 W. Roxbury
Bruce Tarr 1600 Gloucester
James Timilty 1222 Walpole
James Welch 1660 W. Springfield



Inmates Who Get Parenting Training Are 95 % Less Likely To Report New Offenses

Education works. Now, it looks like parenting education to incarcerated people REALLY works. Now I could combine my parenting education experience with prison volunteering.

Inmates Who Get Parenting Training Are 95 % Less Likely To Report New Offenses.

via Inmates Who Get Parenting Training Are 95 % Less Likely To Report New Offenses.

Racism behind mass incarceration

Black men under age 35 who did not finish high school are more likely to be behind bars than employed in the labor market.

That sentence was buried halfway down in an announcement from the National Academies Press of the publishing of this report: “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences.”

These facts also grate at me, especially the third:

1. With the inclusion of local jails, the U.S. penal population totals 2.2 million adults, the largest in the world; the U.S. has nearly one-quarter of the world’s prisoners, but only 5 percent of its population.
2. Nearly 1 in 100 adults is in prison or jail, which is 5 to 10 times higher than rates in Western Europe and other democracies.
3. Of those incarcerated in 2011, about 60 percent were black or Hispanic.

The systematic racism throughout our country’s criminal justice system that created this “New Jim Crow,” outrages and frustrates me. The frustrations are that the system is so complex that it will take a series of laws and new policies and practices over the next five to ten years to change such a behemoth, and worse, MOST PEOPLE don’t know about the epidemic of mass incarceration, and if they do know about it, don’t act.

This issue hits close to home for me because I have volunteered in prisons since 2009, co-founding eight Toastmaters programs in men’s and women’s prisons. I know many people impacted by the politics, racism and classism that has delivered the New Jim Crow. I knew many black males in high school in Wilmington, Del. and often wonder if they were snagged in the net of imprisonment, that sends one in three black men to prison.

To take action in Massachusetts, contact me or start looking around in your area for others who are working on untangling the web of injustice created by the war on drugs. susan dot tordella at g mail dot com .

Copies of The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences are available from the National Academies Press at or by calling tel. 202-334-3313or 1-800-624-6242