Monthly Archives: July 2016

Bills Related To Increasing Penalties for Interfering with Police

In response to the Dallas massacre, our Massachusetts state legislature has introduced the following bills.

1. HB4440: An act relative to assault and battery on a police officer

Amends various GLs to punish whoever commits an assault and battery upon a

police officer and causes the officer serious bodily injury, by 1 to 10 years in state

prison or 1 to 2½ years in the house of correction, with a minimum mandatory 1

year to serve, and a fine between $500 and $10,000; and provides that a judge

may consider that a defendant charged with this offense is dangerous enough to

justify setting bail on the defendant or ordering such defendant's release, but with

Lead sponsor: Governor Charlie Baker (R)

Co-sponsors: None

Status: In Judiciary Committee. Hearing held 7/13/16. 4 testimonies in

opposition, 6 testimonies in support.

2. HB4466: An act protecting police officers

Section 13D of Chapter 265, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is

hereby amended by adding at the end thereof the following new paragraph:

Whoever commits an assault or an assault and battery upon a law enforcement

officer, when such an officer is engaged in the performance of their duties, that

results in bodily injury shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for

not more than 5 years or in the house of correction for not more than 2 1/2 years,

or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Second or subsequent assaults upon a law enforcement officer, when such an

officer is engaged in the performance of their duties, or assaults and battery,

resulting in bodily injury shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000,

and imprisonment for not less than 1 year in a house of correction or more than

10 years in state prison.

Lead sponsor: Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn)

Co-sponsors: Rep. Ashe, Brian (D); Rep. Berthiaume Jr., Donald (R); Rep.

Boldyga, Nicholas (R); Rep. Campanale, Kate (R); Rep. Cantwell, James (D);

Rep. DeCoste, David (R); Rep. Diehl, Geoff (R); Rep. Dooley, Shawn (R); Rep.

Durant, Peter (R); Rep. Dwyer, James (D); Rep. Ferguson, Kimberly (R);Rep.

Fiola, Carole (D); Rep. Gordon, Kenneth (D); Rep. Gregoire, Danielle (D); Rep.

Haddad, Patricia (D); Rep. Hill, Bradford (R); Rep. Howitt, Steven (R); Rep. Hunt,

Randy (R); Rep. Kane, Hannah (R); Rep. Kelcourse, James (R); Rep. Kuros,

Kevin (R); Rep. Lombardo, Marc (R); Rep. McKenna, Joseph (R); Rep.

McMurtry, Paul (D); Rep. Miceli, James (D); Rep. Muratore, Mathew (R); Rep.

Orrall, Keiko (R); Rep. Poirier, Elizabeth (R);Rep. Puppolo, Jr., Angelo (D); Rep.

Rogers, John (D); Rep. Smola, Todd (R); Rep. Vieira, David (R); Rep. Vincent,

RoseLee (D); Rep. Whelan, Timothy (R); Rep. Wong, Donald (R); Rep. Zlotnik,

Who Will Be Your Next Sheriff?

In the voting booth, do you know anything about the office SHERIFF? Before I became an activist, I had no idea what a sheriff does and why I should care. The 14 sheriffs in Massachusetts have their own kingdoms, complete with jails — also known as Houses of Corrections, which house about 10,000 of the state’s 20,000 incarcerated people.  Read this article published by, written by activist Jean Trounstein, and share with your friends. Get involved!
A new project aims to educate Massachusetts voters on how they can have a voice in who’ll be in charge of more than half the state’s incarcerated population for the next six years.

 You might not think a sheriff’s important to your life, but guess what? Massachusetts sheriffs are in office for six years, even longer than the four years that governors serve. And since this coming November 2016, in all 14 counties, sheriffs are up for reelection, you might want to consider who’s going to manage your county’s prisons and jails, and determine how more than half a billion dollarsof taxpayer money will be spent.

To that end, for the first time, extensive materials for voters in every Massachusetts county are now available, describing the role of sheriffs and detailing who’s running to be top dog in your county jails and prisons— also called houses of correction (HOC) in the Commonwealth. According to the in-depth fact sheets and candidate questionnaires, it’s clear that what’s at stake include sheriffs’ positions on substance use/mental health programs, medical care, solitary confinement, prisoner education and re-entry services, job training for employees, and where and how women prisoners are held, as well as the sheriffs’ willingness to track data and issue public reports.

Barnstable Sheriff Cummings (R) is running for reelection. Randy Azzato (D) is running against him.
Berkshire Sheriff Bowler (D) is running unopposed for reelection.
Bristol Sheriff Hodgson (R) is running unopposed for reelection.
Dukes Current sheriff Michael McCormack is retiring. Two Democrats are running to replace him, Robert Odgen and Marc Rivers.
Essex Current sheriff Frank Cousins is retiring. Thirteen candidates are running to replace him. Democrats: William Castro, Kevin Coppinger, Michael Marks, Edward,O’Reilly, Jerry Robito, and Paul Russell. Republicans: Kenneth Berg, Jeffrey Gallo, James Jajuga, Craig Lane, and Ann Manning-Martin. No Party: Mark Archer and Kevin Leach.
Franklin Sheriff Donelan (D) is running unopposed for reelection.
Hampden Current Sheriff Michael Ashe is retiring. Five candidates are running to replace him. Democrats: Michael Albano, Tom Ashe, and Nick Cocchi. Republican: John Comerford. No party: James Gill.
Hampshire Current sheriff Robert Garvey is retiring. Four candidates are running to replace him, Democrats: Patrick Cahillane, Kavern Lewis, and Melissa Perry. Republican: David Isakson
Middlesex Sheriff Koutoujian (D) is running for reelection. Barry Kelleher (D) is running against him.
Nantucket Sheriff Perelman (D) is running unopposed for reelection.
Norfolk Sheriff Bellotti (D) is running unopposed for reelection.
Plymouth Sheriff McDonald (R) is running for reelection. Scott Vecchi (D) is running against him.
Suffolk Sheriff Tompkins (D) is running for reelection. Alexander Rhalimi (D) is running against him.
Worcester Sheriff Evangelidis (R) is running unopposed for reelection.

Chart information courtesy of the
Sheriffs 2016 Election Project

The materials were developed by an activist group called the Ad Hoc Coalition to Stop New Jails. The group originally organized to oppose the building of new jails in Massachusetts—instead backing measures that support community-based corrections and bail reform. According to Lois Ahrens, founding director of the Real Cost of Prisons Project (RCPP) and one of the organizers behind the Sheriffs 2016 Election Project, “This is an opportunity to have the races be actually contested. Even in some counties like Plymouth, where a sitting sheriff is running, there’s an opportunity for people to question those sheriffs using our questionnaire and encourage the sheriffs to respond.”

Attorney Barbara J. Dougan, from the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who drafted the materials with help from others in the coalition, said in a telephone interview that sheriffs are “a position with a lot of clout and money in their budgets, but I would bet the average voter knows very little about the Massachusetts county prison system.”

Unlike state prisons where prisoners can receive any term of years up to life, HOCs hold prisoners for up to 2½ years for a single offense. Leslie Walker, an attorney and executive director of the Boston-based Prisoners’ Legal Services, clarified that HOC sentences “can run after each other so that if prisoners don’t receive parole, some people technically could do five years.” She added that in Massachusetts “some HOCs hold people awaiting trial, and in some counties there are free-standing jails for that purpose.” reported in June 2016 that a study conducted by the public sector firm, Public Consulting Group (PCG), determined that sheriffs’ budgets vary from county to county. Middlesex and Suffolk have two of the largest operating budgets, respectively, at $68,262,063 (or $68,058 per prisoner) and $104,029,929 (or $65,358 per prisoner). Sheriffs supervise 10,400 prisoners serving HOC sentences and those awaiting trial in jails, and according to an Executive Office of Public Safety 2015 report, as of March 2015, that was approximately half the number of people incarcerated in Massachusetts.

Attorney Dougan said sheriffs “have an enormous effect on how people will come out after their sentences. If you want people to lead law abiding lives, then it also should be important for you to see how the sheriffs are running their shops, from a public safety perspective since all county prisoners are coming back home.”

While the Coalition aims to have individuals become more engaged, they also hope to educate legislators and the press through this project. Ahrens said, “In most states, constituents not only elect their sheriff but vote on how much of their tax dollars should go toward building new jails and running them so that voters have more say in what sheriffs do and don’t do. In Massachusetts, elections are the time to hold sheriffs accountable.”

A press release that went out from the Coalition on Monday indicated that materials will be updated after the September 8 primaries to reflect the final slate of candidates.

Massachusetts needs DATA DRIVEN info on justice

This opinion piece — “MA is MIA on criminal justice reform” — in The Boston Globe on July 17, 2016, highlights how Massachusetts lacks one comprehensive system to collect and analyze data on our justice and corrections systems. With a common tool, all of the various agencies — the 14 jails jails, state Department of Corrections, sex offender registry, local and state police and more — could all share data for the common good.

Other states, such as Colorado, have invested in such technology, which officials and electeds from across the state meet monthly to analyze for economies of scale, service delivery, cost/benefit savings and more.

Right now, a working group appointed by Gov. Baker is working with the Council of State Governments [CSG] to evaluate the Massachusetts justice and corrections systems to make recommendations for legislative reform in Jan. 2017. A chronic complaint by the working group is the lack of accurate data. It’s ironic that the bureaucrats and electeds who have created, maintained and defend the broken system, now attack the poor data the CSG researchers present as indicators for needed reform. This article highlights the value of good data.

By Stephen Goldsmith and Jane Wiseman

LOCKING UP MILLIONS of Americans costs a lot of money. It comes with devastating social consequences. And it has produced a vast archipelago of institutions at the local, state, and federal level that’s too complicated for even those who administer small corners of it to understand in full.

The White House’s newly announced Data-Driven Justice Initiative aims to tackle these interwoven problems simultaneously by reducing the number of criminal defendants held in our local jails on pretrial detention orders. Seven states and 60 counties across the country have signed up so far.

Notably absent from this coalition: Massachusetts, which continues its silence on the critical issue of local criminal justice reform.

One of the cornerstones of data-driven justice is the use of risk assessment in the pretrial process — to keep dangerous defendants in jail awaiting trial and let low-risk ones remain in the community, staying connected to family and work, and paying their rent and their taxes. Keeping low-risk defendants out of jail awaiting trial has been shown to result in less crime and lower costs — in short, good government.

A thoughtful and ambitious bill crafted by Representative Tom Sannicandro of Ashland and Senator Ken Donnelly of Arlington would finally incorporate data into the pretrial decision-making process and bring Massachusetts in line with this growing reform movement. The bill is long overdue — the current statute governing bail and pretrial in Massachusetts dates to 1836. A hodgepodge of updates has been made over the years, but the law is in need of a total overhaul.

Beacon Hill should move on this timely and important legislation. Delay in moving to data-driven justice increases crime and cost and decreases fairness in our administration of justice.

The decision about release or detention should be based on a defendant’s risk of flight and likelihood of committing a crime before trial. Analyzing existing data about the defendant’s risk is far more objective than the current methods, too often a judge’s best guess about the defendant’s risk and a defendant’s ability to scrounge up bail money.

The tragic murder of Jennifer Martel at the hands of Jared Remy demonstrates the horrific result when data are not used in pretrial release decisions. Remy had 20 prior arrests, mostly for violent offenses. Yet a few days before he killed his girlfriend, after being arrested on assault charges, he paid a $40 fee and was released on his own recognizance.

For every Jared Remy, there are just as many indigent nonviolent offenders incarcerated for minor drug or petty larceny charges who cannot scrape together bail money and sit in our local jails while posing no threats to our communities.

How do data help? By looking at factual prior records and current circumstances, judges can have objective information to guide the decision about pretrial release. Data are blind to famous names and expensive lawyers. Nor are data swayed by a defendant’s ability to make bail.

Jurisdictions that do use data to make pretrial decisions have achieved greater fairness, lower crime, and lower costs. Washington, D.C., releases 85 percent of defendants awaiting trial. Compared to the national average, those released in D.C. are two and a half times more likely to remain arrest free and one a half times as likely to show up for court. The results are lower jail costs and lower crime.

This approach can also help stamp out some of the inequity in the criminal justice system because we know that under the current approach defendants who already have advantages (higher income, employment, stable housing, etc.) are released more often than those with fewer advantages (lower income, ethnic or racial minority, etc.), even for the same crime.

Data-driven justice is also cheaper. Defendants released on their own recognizance cost essentially nothing. For a defendant released and supervised while awaiting trial, the cost is 90 percent lower than the cost to incarcerate. How much could be saved by moving to risk-based pretrial decision-making? Experts say that up to 25 percent of those detained pretrial might be safely released.

While precise estimates are difficult to determine, assuming Massachusetts mirrors the national rate incarcerating 60 percent of criminal defendants while awaiting trial, data driven reforms in line with this new White House initiative have the possibility of saving taxpayers anywhere from $60 million to $150 million annually. One of the few states to quantify the value is Kentucky, which saves $100 million a year with risk-based pretrial decision-making.

With Governor Charlie Baker and State House leaders looking to fill a significant budget gap, we can’t think of a better way to save Massachusetts taxpayers millions annually while reforming a broken system that perpetuates inequality and does little to protect the public’s safety.

Stephen Goldsmith is the director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center. He previously served as a prosecutor in Marion County, Ind. Jane Wiseman is a senior fellow at the Ash Center. Previously she served as assistant secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety.