Category Archives: end mass incarceration

THREE free events in April will give you more substance when you meet with your state rep to encourage him/her to support justice and corrections systems reform bills this session on Beacon Hill. Please post and share.
You’re welcome to join Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Day on the Hill on Tuesday, April 11 http://www.uumassaction.org/events-2/  Storm the statehouse with more than 100 activists to visit your state rep on that day of action. All welcome. Make our collective voice heard!  ($35).
1 – Thursday April 6 at Harvard, 10 am- 4 pm. Free.
A conference
2 – Thursday April 6 Belmont  7:30 pm, in the church library. Free
Leslie Walker, director of Prisoners Legal Services, will speak at the First Church UU in Belmont, 404 Concord Ave in Belmont, across from the Commuter Rail station. An expert on prison conditions, Walker will speak on  the problems, how prison conditions contribute to a high rate of poverty and recidivism among former prisoners, and her recommended solutions.
3- Sunday, April 23 Arlington, 2 pm, Free, donation requested
Adam Foss on the Evolution of Prosecution
First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington
630 Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington Center

Prosecutors have enormous power and discretion, and their decisions shape thousands of lives.  Some are realizing that their traditional tools can’t solve the real problems people face.
Adam Foss is a former Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney and the founder of Prosecutor Impact, which helps prosecutors learn a better way.  His TED Talk on “A Prosecutor’s Vision for a Better Justice System” has been viewed more than 1.5 million times.  (https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_foss_a_prosecutor_s_vision_for_a_better_justice_system)
Come hear him speak about how prosecution needs to change and how we can help.
 This event is free and open to the public.  An optional $10-20 donation to support Prosecutor Impact will be invited but not required.

Sponsored by the Mass Incarceration Working Group of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington. Questions? Email end-mass-incarceration@firstparish.info .

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There’s still time in New Hampshire

You’re invited to join a last-minute push in New Hampshire, where their 4 electoral votes are being hotly contested for US President and to tip the US Senate to a democratic majority. NH residents  can register to vote on Election Day,  people in low-income neighborhoods are being encouraged to vote.
You are invited to campaign door-to-door in Manchester, NH starting at 3 pm on Monday, Nov. 7. 
Contact Darren, 917-327-6528 to participate. I’ll be going on Monday if anyone wants to carpool from Route 495/Ayer area. On Saturday, activists from Vermont and Mass. showed up to canvass and Spanish speakers were particularly welcomed.
On Tuesday Nov 8 join with progressive reformers at the campaign/election night party, hosted by State Sen. Jamie Eldridge [D-Acton], a leader for justice and corrections systems reform on Beacon Hill. The party is at the Boxborough Holiday Inn, 242 Adams Place, Boxborough,  8 pm – until midnight. Campaign donation for Sen Eldridge requested, cash bar, light refreshment served. Hope to see you there.
Jamie Eldridge is an outstanding state senator in Massachusetts. He is on the Harm Reduction and Drug LAw reform caucus on Beacon Hill. He really cares about immigration, the disenfranchized and ending mass incarceration.

Former Gov. Michael Dukakis and Susan Tordella, co-founder of EMIT at a campaign event for State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, one of the leading progressives on Beacon Hill. Jamie is a co-leader of the Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus at the Massachusetts Statehouse. He works tirelessly to end mass incarceration and reform our state’s corrections, probation and courts systems for the betterment of all.

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.

It’s time to keep inflation in pace with crime

Public Safety Secretary applauds higher threshold for felony larceny

Massachusetts Public Safety and Security Secretary Daniel Bennett cheered the Senate’s plan to take up legislation heightening the threshold before larceny can be treated as a felony.

The Senate on Thursday plans to take up a bill (S 2156) that cleared the Judiciary Committee, which would raise the felony larceny threshold for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The threshold was last increased in November 1987 when Gov. Michael Dukakis approved a law increasing the felony amount to $250, up from $100. The Senate bill would raise the threshold to $1,500 before a defendant could be punished with years in prison.

“I think it makes sense. It’s been at $250 for a long time,” Bennett told the News Service Friday on his way into a cabinet meeting.

Bennett said the new threshold is an important consideration and he hoped to work with lawmakers to find a “fair amount for victims.”

“It depends on the amount, but certainly it should move up from $250 to realistically make what was a misdemeanor a felony. So I applaud the amounts going up. We do have to see what that amount goes to because we don’t want to take advantage of victims by making it too high,” Bennett said. – Andy Metzger/Statehouse News Service

3/7/2016 9:52:06 AM

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

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.