Monthly Archives: May 2015

Action you can take to influence the Judiciary Committee

The Judiciary Committee is now evaluating bills to reform the Commonwealth’s judicial and correctional systems. YOU CAN INFLUENCE this process in several ways.

1. Pledge to attend the June 9 hearing, 1 pm at the Gardner Auditorium of the Statehouse to show support for reform. Sign up here or show up at 12:45 pm at the Statehouse.

2. Print out multiple copies of this action letter. Invite others to sign individual letters. Mail them to EMIT, C/o Susan Tordella, 5 Hedgeway St. Ayer, MA 01432. EMIT will deliver them in person to the Judiciary Committee members. Or deliver the letters in person to Judiciary Committee members.

3.Call or email members of the Judiciary Committee and encourage other voters to do the same,  to encourage legislators to support criminal justice reform, especially the bills in the action letter

Here are the Judiciary Committee members, positions and contact information.

The legislators with NONE beside their names really need to hear that we support reform. 

Key (bills Sponsored -SP or Co-sponsored):
MM:    End Mandatory Minimums
PT:      Pre-Trial and Bail Reform
Just:   Justice Reinvestment Act
Care:   Caretaker Act
Exp:    Expungement
RJ:      Restorative Justice
Extra:  Extraordinary Medical Release

William Brownsberger, D-Belmont – Chair    617-722-1280  William.brownsberger@masenate.gov
MM, Just, Exp, RJ,
Sen. John Keenen, D-Quincy – Vice Chair NONE   617-722-1494     john.keenan@masenate.gov
Sonia Chang Diaz, D-Boston           617-722-1673     sonia.change-diaz@masenate.gov
PT, MM, Just -SP
Patricia Jehlen, D-Somerville         617-722-1578     patricia.jehlen@masenate.gov
PT, MM, Care-SP, Exp, RJ, Extra -SP
Cynthia Creem, D-Newton               617-722-1639     cynthia.creem@masenate.gov
MM- SP, Just
Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham             NONE   617-722-1555     richard.ross@masenate.gov
Rep. John Fernandes, D-Milford- Chair   NONE     617-722-2396     john.fernandes@mahouse.gov
Claire Cronin, D-Easton – Vice Chair                       617-722-2396     claire.cronin@mahouse.gov
PT, MM, Just, RJ Extra
Rep. Colleen Garry, D-Dracut    NONE       617-722-2380     colleen.garry@mahouse.gov
Rep. John Velis, D-Westfield     NONE       617-722-2582     john.vellis@mahouse.gov
Michael Day, D-Winchester                        617-722-2582     michael.day@mahouse.gov
MM, RJ
Rep. Paul Tucker, D-Salem          NONE          617-722-2400     paul.tucker@mahouse.gov
Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover    NONE          617-722-2450     james.lyons@mahouse.gov
Jeffrey Roy, D-Franklin                     617-722-2020     jeffrey.roy@mahouse.gov
Pre-Trial, MM, RJ
Evandro Carvalho, D-Dorchester      617-722-2460     evandro.carvalho@mahouse.gov
MM, Just
Carlos Gonzalez, D-Springfield         617-722-2080     carlos.gonzalez@mahouse.gov
PT, MM, Just, Care
Sheila Harrington, R-Groton              617-722-2305     shiela.harrington@mahouse.gov
PT

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Save the date: June 9 Judiciary Committee hearing at Gardner Auditorium, Statehouse 1pm

To support criminal justice reform, you can contact members of the Judiciary Committee of Massachusetts before the June 9 hearing and if possible, attend hearing at Gardner auditorium at 1 pm. EPOCA will be sponsoring buses and possibly a rally before the hearing.

Justice will be restored and our prison population reduced ONLY through a series of bills passed over a number of years. In January, state legislators introduced many bills for justice reform for the 2015-16 session on Beacon Hill. The next step is for the Judiciary Committee [and other committees] to hold hearings and a favorable reference for each bill so it can be debated and voted on the floors of the Senate and House on Beacon Hill.

You can have impact by attending the hearing, and/or through  calls, letters and especially face-to-face visits with your legislator. See this link for a list of Judiciary Committee members. Even if your legislator is not on the Judiciary Committee, you can still call and write to the members and advocate they support reform.

Here are some of the bills supported by EMIT and maybe heard on June 9, 2015. For a complete list of bills, go here.  fact sheets on each bill, go here.

    1. Repeal Mandatory Minimums – (S 786 Creem) (H 1620 Swan) to allow judges to determine sentences to fit the crime for drug offenders. These laws contribute to the cost of prison and jails, and to their overcrowding.
    2. Pre-trial and Bail reform – (S 802 Donnelly) (H 1584 Sannicandro), to transition from a bail system based on ability to pay, to a system to determine if someone is not a danger to others, and will show up for court.
    3. Implement restorative justice programs – (S 71 Eldridge) (H 1313 Garbally), to provide an opportunity for offenders to repair the harm caused by the event, as opposed to punishment and incarceration.
    4. Extraordinary Medical Placement – (S 843 Jehlen) (H 1628 Toomey), to release terminally ill inmates to the community. The state spends an inordinate amount of resources to care for seriously ill incarcerated people who are no longer are a threat to public safety. We are one of the few states without this law.
    5. End collateral sanctions at the Registry of Motor Vehicles – (S 1812 Chandler) (H 3039 Malia), to remove the penalty that a drug offender loses driving privileges for up to five years and pays $500 or more to reinstate.
    6. An act to Increase Neighborhood Safety and Opportunity – (S 64 Chang-Diaz) (H 1429 Keefe). This Omnibus Bill will improve the Commonwealth’s criminal justice system, and re-invest in education and job training.
    7. Caregivers bill—(H 1382 Holmes) to establish community-based sentencing alternatives for primary caretakers of dependent children, charged with non-violent crimes, to alleviate harm to families and communities.
    8. Solitary confinement – (S 1255 Eldridge) (H 1475 Malia) to ensure appropriate use of segregation in prisons and jails that will also reduce recidivism and curb unnecessary spending.

Join us at the Statehouse June 9, 1 pm hearing to support criminal justice reform in Massachusetts

Campaign to Greatly Lessen Mass Incarceration

Increasing Treatment for Drug Offenders and Decreasing Incarceration, Keep Families Together, Lessen Crime in Our Neighborhoods, Redemption and Second Chances and Jobs for Ex-Prisoners, Save Taxpayers money

COME to THE HEARING on legislation to lessen mass incarceration, lessen crime, and increase jobs    Tuesday June 9 at 1:00 in Room B-1 State House in Boston

CALL YOUR State Senator TODAY and ask him or her to have the hearing moved to the Gardner Auditorium to insure there is sufficient room for all attendees.

Too many people go to prison who instead need drug treatment, mental health services, and/or jobs.   The consequences are huge when we otherwise send people to prison; scarring individuals, harming families, increasing crime in communities, increasing costs to all taxpayers. Incarceration also disproportionately affects African-Americans and Latinos.  We need to be “smart” on crime to increase safety and opportunity.

The legislation we are working for is the Justice Reinvestment Act: An Act to Increase Neigbhorhood Safety and Opportunity, House 1429 and Senate 64.

  1. End Mandatory Minimum Sentences for drug offenders and restore that decision to judges who can examine the facts and circumstances of the case….this will lead to more people being sent to drug treatment instead of prison.
  2. End the $500 fine to regain your driver’s license if convicted of a drug offense; it’s an unfair burden to put on people trying to go forward after prison.
  3. Change some felonies into misdemeanors like raising the threshold for felony larceny from $250 to $1250. Lessening sentences for drug possession, but not for possession with intent to distribute (drug dealing).
  4. Compassionate release of long term prisoners with terminal illnesses
  5. Bail Reform so people’s bail is based on their showing up for trial not based on whether they can afford to raise the bail funds.
  6. Jobs—The funds saved from lessening numbers in prison and lessening the length of sentences would go into a fund for jobs and job training.

The Jobs Not Jails Coalition is organizing for passage of this law.  This includes community groups, labor unions, religious based groups, ex-prisoners groups.  We are building allies to from law enforcement and elected officials.

For more info, contact: Steve O’Neill of EPOCA (508) 410-7676 steve@exprisoners.org,      Lew Finfer of MCAN: (617) 470-2912 LewFinfer@gmail.com,         Rev. Paul Ford of BWA  RevFord@BostonWorkersAlliance.org (617) 955-0559,  Elena Letona of Neighbor to Neighbor (617) 997-7503  Elena@N2NMA.org, Rev. Laura Ahart, Black Ministerial Alliance  (857) 492-1634

 Justice Reinvestment   Senate Bill 64                   House Bill 1429

 An Act to Increase Neighborhood Safety and Opportunity

Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston) and Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester) and 55 co-sponsoring legislators have filed an omnibus bill backed by a large coalition of community, religious, and union organizations to improve Massachusetts’ systems of criminal justice, end mass incarceration, and re-invest in our communities through job and educational opportunity.   Included in the bill are:

Criminal Justice Reforms

  • Repeal Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences – This would restore judicial discretion in sentencing for drug charges, reducing the risk of longer than warranted prison terms;
  • Reduce Certain Low-Level Felonies to Misdemeanors – Under this scenario certain offenses (such as shoplifting or other petty theft, or low-level drug charges) would be made misdemeanors, with different sanctions that rely less on long and expensive terms of incarceration;
  • End Collateral Sanctions at the RMV – This would eliminate the current law allowing the Registry of Motor Vehicles to confiscate the license of a person convicted of any drug offense (even where charges are unrelated to the operation of a vehicle) for up to 5 years and charge at least $500 to reinstate it; and
  • Extraordinary Medical Placement – This would allow a judge to decide whether a person who is permanently incapacitated or terminally ill should be transferred out of prison for treatment, remaining under state custody.
  • Bail Reform—though not in this bill, we are also supporting a separate Bail Reform Bill so people are no longer in prison just because they could not raise bail for less serious crimes\
  • Jobs and Schools The final sections of the bill establish a Trust fund with the cost savings from these improvements in the criminal justice system. Trust funds will be used to right our unbalanced economy by investing in evidence-based practices including job development efforts for youth, veterans, victims of violence, and other people with significant barriers to employment, and supporting programs that help at-risk youth to stay in school.
  • Programs supported by the Trust will include:
  • Job training programs to address the skills gaps identified by Massachusetts industry leaders;
  • Transitional job and pre-apprenticeship programs to prepare people for today’s workforce and place them in good, living-wage jobs;
  • Youth jobs that provide both sustenance and experience;
  • Initiatives to create new jobs through social enterprises, coops, and other businesses; and
  • Evidence-based programs that specialize in drop-out prevention and recovery, giving youth a second chance at academic achievement and setting them on a path to success.
  • NOTE: Legislators are also filing many of the above sections as separate, individual bills: Mandatory minimums: Sen. Creem and Rep. Swan;  Extraordinary Medical Placement: Sen. Jehlen and Rep. Toomey;  RMV Collateral Sanctions: Sen. Chandler and Rep. Malia.

For more info, contact: Steve O’Neill of EPOCA (508) 410-7676 steve@exprisoners.org,      Lew Finfer of MCAN: (617) 470-2912 LewFinfer@gmail.com,         Rev. Paul Ford of BWA  RevFord@BostonWorkersAlliance.org (617) 955-0559,  Elena Letona of Neighbor to Neighbor (617) 997-7503  Elena@N2NMA.org, Rev. Laura Ahart, Black Ministerial Alliance  (857) 492-1634