Monthly Archives: December 2016

Send holiday REFORM greetings

EMIT doesn’t ask for money [we are all-volunteer] during the holidays. Instead, all year round, we ask for a thin slice of your time to add to the chorus in the wave of justice & corrections systems reform in Massachusetts.
With the CSG report due out imminently, take a minute to contact Gov. Charlie Baker and/or Speaker Robert DeLeo and encourage them to adopt  justice reinvestment — which means investing in jobs, education, job training and support for small business startups in urban communities hardest hit by mass incarceration.
The theory is to roll over money saved by fewer people behind bars and use it productively to start a new life for formerly incarcerated people.
See more info here in this Globe story from yesterday on the outdated state of our justice and corrections systems.  Here’s Speaker DeLeo’s and Gov. Baker’s contact info. My sample email follows- feel free to copy and paste and edit in your correspondence.
Dear Speaker DeLeo:
During this time of hope and celebration, I urge you to think of the 10,000 people in free public housing in our state’s prisons and jails. 
We are not the worst offender in the Union for lack of justice, however, there are MANY more reforms possible than covered by the CSG. I urge you to go further and rollover the money saved by incarcerating fewer people, getting rid of the bail system that favors the rich and guilty, and reinvesting it in urban communities hardest hit by incarceration. Please do everything in your power to adopt justice re-investment in the coming legislative session.
THANKS AND Happy Holidays from the EMIT team.

Fees add to hurdles of returning citizens after jail


STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 15, 2016…Inmates released from prison who are placed on probation should not need to pay fees for their supervision, the chief justice of the district court said Wednesday.

“The imposition of a fee at that point in time, a probation fee, is counter to rehabilitative efforts, and we’ve seen some evidence it interferes with employment, with housing,” District Court Chief Justice Paul Dawley told the Governor’s Council during a hearing.

Dawley led a court system working group on judicial reforms, producing a report Nov. 17 that the chief justice said had been shared with Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg.

“It’s been positively received by all three,” Dawley said Wednesday.

The Big Three have also collaborated with Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants on developing a justice system reform package for next session.

Policymakers are eyeing ways to reduce recidivism, cut down on incarceration and related costs, and deliver more supports to individuals before and after they are released from jails and prisons. Revenue constraints loom as a potential obstacle to more expansive pre- and post-incarceration services, as state officials are in the midst of a midyear budget reductions and the appetite for new or higher taxes on Beacon Hill appears low.

On Tuesday the Jobs Not Jails coalition rallied in Boston for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes while worrying that the coming reforms would only result in “tinkering” with the laws and changes to probation and parole.

On Wednesday, appearing on behalf of attorney Sarah Ellis’s nomination to the Woburn District Court, Dawley said state laws currently force the assessment of certain fees on defendants regardless of their ability to pay.

“There are some statutes that exist now that make it very difficult for judges,” Dawley told Councilor Robert Jubinville. “In fact there are some statutes, as you know, that take away any discretion of the judge to actually waive a fee or fine. The law is very clear.”

The working group suggested new court policies and proposed legislation in response to recommendations from the U.S. Department of Justice, which concluded that the criminal justice system in Ferguson, Missouri had “deprived people of their constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, and other federal protections.”

In public speeches, Gants has also questioned the fees imposed on defendants.

According to the working group, people placed on probation are charged either $65 or $50 per month. In some cases, defendants released from incarceration can be assessed monthly fees for both parole and probation supervision, according to the report.

The group, which was led by Dawley and counted Ellis as a member, recommended the court explore the feasibility of allowing defendants to establish payment plans, develop a remote-access electronic payment system, and adopt a policy requiring judges to appoint attorneys for indigent defendants in proceedings when the enforcement of fees and fines related to a criminal case could lead to incarceration.

A person can be incarcerated for non-payment when a judge finds the person was able to pay and willfully failed to pay, according to the report, which says “the judge should consider alternatives to incarceration.”

In fiscal 2016, the Trial Court collected $99.9 million in fines, fees and court costs in 30 collection categories, while also assessing $73.9 million in restitution, and ordering $1.4 million in forfeited bail money turned over to the General Fund.

“There’s no judge in our system that wants to sit there all day and collect money,” Dawley said.

Jubinville recalled a time he spent in court in recent months where he saw a judge repeatedly order people to be locked up for failure to make payments.

“Five straight people got locked up in a row,” Jubinville said. “I said to the court officer sitting next to me, ‘This is like the French revolution. Step up and off with their heads. Into the lock-up.'”

The working group suggested changes to the “several statutes” that prohibit judges from ordering waivers on specific fines and fees. As an example of a non-waivable fee it would like to see changed, the group noted a $250 head injury assessment for driving under the influence of drugs or liquor.

The group wants changes to a law last amended in 1987 that applies to people incarcerated for failing to pay fines. Current law allows people to “work off” the amount they owe, receiving $30 off the balance owed for every day incarcerated. The working group calculated that $30 in 1987 would be worth $64.21 today. The working group also recommended development of a single standard that could be used by a judge in determining whether to waive a fee based on a person’s inability to pay.


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CSG call 12/10; Demand Justice in phone-in campaign for Doukan cases

Join a statewide EMIT call 
Monday, Dec 12, 7-8 pm to learn more about  legislation to be proposed by the CSG – Council of State Governments. EMIT leaders Laura Wagner and Dirck Stryker will lead the discussion. Your questions and comments are welcome.
 Call in: (712) 432-1212  Meeting ID – 351-484-548#
ACT this week for justice – Dec 12-16
ADD YOUR voice for justice Dec. 12-16 for 50,000+ convicted on tainted evidence supplied by Annie Dookhan in the state drug lab. Please call your district attorney [and others] to demand the cases be dismissed.
Dookhan is out of prison after serving just three years. Her lies impacted more than 50,000 drug cases in Massachusetts.  Many are out of jail yet still suffer collateral consequences of having this false accusation on their record.
Several MA District Attorneys have filed a SUPREME COURT Case to make sure these bogus guilting findings stick ! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE.
PLEASE join our statewide calling campaign this week. Suffolk County had the most cases and the most prosecuting happy DA. If you’re gonna make one call, DA Dan Conley, Suffolk – 617-619-4000 is the man to target.
 If you’re interested, read on. Script below. You may be directed to voice mail. Ignore the message on the voice mail and leave yours.
District attorneys will be up for re-election in 2018. Most elected officials run on the fear that they will not be re-elected. HAVE a local impact by contacting your district attorney about this disgraceful injustice. 
Demand the FULL DISMISSAL of the drug lab convictions based on false evidence. Together, we can hold prosecutors in Massachusetts accountable for corruption and abuse of power and xpress  support and solidarity for  thousands harmed by these tainted convictions.
District Attorneys are elected officials by county. Seven counties were involved in the Drug Lab scandal. Start by calling your District Attorney, because constituents have the most impact. Time permitting, you can call them all! The call in campaign runs through Friday, December 16.
Here is the info:
DA Dan Conley, Suffolk – 617-619-4000
DA Thomas Quinn, Bristol – 508-997-0711
DA Jonathan Blodgett, Essex – 978-745-6610
DA Marian Ryan, Middlesex – 781-897-8300 (Press 0)
DA Michael O’Keefe, Cape – 508-362-8113
DA Michael Morrissey, Norfolk – 
781-830-4800  (Press 0)
DA Timothy Cruz, Plymouth – 508-584-8120

CALL SCRIPT: “Hi, my name is ____________ and I live in ____________ and I’m calling to urge the District Attorney to dismiss the tainted drug convictions. Dismissing these cases is the only way to restore justice to people who continue to experience the negative impact of their convictions. Protecting drug convictions based on false evidence serves no public good. Please tell the District Attorney to dismiss all tainted convictions.”

*Please let us know you called:

*If you have been personally impacted by the Dookhan drug lab scandal we would love to hear from you about how we can organize together.
BACKGROUND: Massachusetts state drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan tainted more than 24,000 convictions with falsified evidence from 2003-2011. Dookhan reported positive drug test results without conducting tests, reported negative results as positives, and may have inflated drug weights. In 2010 and 2011, colleagues reported her misconduct to superiors, but the government did not take any action. Instead, the Department of Public Health allowed Dookhan to continue working. One in six drug convictions made between 2003-2011 in the Commonwealth relied on Dookhan’s tainted evidence, and 62% of these convictions were for simple possession.

*PROSECUTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE: Even after learning of Dookhan’s misconduct, and that she had repeatedly lied in court, prosecutors continued to use Dookhan’s falsified evidence and testimony to coerce people into pleading guilty. Prosecutors have the power to dismiss the tainted convictions and restore justice at any time, but they have instead chosen to defend these tainted convictions.

*PROSECUTORS ARE PROTECTING CONVICTIONS, NOT PEOPLE: The prosecutors’ refusal to dismiss these cases is an abuse of power. Meanwhile, the people they convicted with false evidence continue to suffer from the trauma of incarceration, criminal records, loss of public housing, deportation, and enhanced sentences on any future convictions. These consequences also impact people’s children and families. By protecting these tainted convictions, prosecutors have demonstrated they do not care about the impact on people’s lives. Arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for drugs is harmful, expensive, and serves no public good – especially when convictions are based on fraud.


CSG 2017 omnibus bill needs backbone

You may have heard about the Council of State Governments [CSG] recommendations to come on justice/corrections systems in Massachusetts to be proposed when the new 18-month legislative session opens in January on Beacon Hill.
Join a statewide EMIT call on Monday, Dec 12, 7-8 pm to learn more about this critical legislation.  EMIT leaders Laura Wagner and Dirck Stryker will lead the discussion. Your questions and comments are welcome.
Call in: (712) 432-1212  Meeting ID – 351-484-548#
Here’s more information on the Monday call and Tuesday rally downtown led by EMIT’s partners, the Jobs not Jails coalition.
The Governor, Speaker, Senate President, and Chief Justice will JOINTLY file a bill in mid-January on criminal justice reform.   It will include some of the recommendations of a CSG report on the criminal justice system in Massachusetts to be released when their bill is filed.

  a.  The Good News–This elevates criminal justice reform to being a “must pass” a bill situation given the Governor, Senate President, House Speaker and Chief Justice are behind it.

  b.  THE CHALLENGE: The bill they file will likely NOT strong enough and focus on probation, parole, and recidivism. It will likely ignore the repeal of long mandatory minimum sentences on non-violent drug offenders etc. 

 Read more about the Jobs Not Jails Priorities

1.  Attend the Rally / Press Conference on December 13 at 10:00.

140 Bowdoin St Boston, Church of the New Jerusalem.  Jobs NOT Jails will have a rally/press conference to call on the four state leaders to include the six proposed bills of the Jobs NOT Jails Coalition

2.  Contact your legislators and/or come to the Jobs Not Jails Lobby Day in January – ask that they co-sponsor the omnibus criminal justice reform bill, The Justice Reinvestment Act, which will include the Jobs Not Jails Priorities.  More details to come – filing deadline is Jan 20

3. In March 2017, the coalition will organize six  major public action meetings in Boston, Brockton, New Bedford, Worcester, Springfield, Lynn, Lowell to show large-scale public support from major criminal justice reform and engage legislators, mayor, sheriffs, police chiefs.  

Let us know if you can help organize one of these events or offer a meeting space. Contact: Laura Wagner