Category Archives: juvenile justice

Restorative Justice training opportunities

Volunteers are needed to participate in the restorative justice system, to keep offenders from serving prison time, and create opportunities to make restitution with the victims of their crime.

C4RJ, Communities for Restorative Justice, in Middlesex County, is directed by Erin Freeborn.  Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan is a primary advocate and practitioner of restorative justice. Learn more from these experts at the following events and websites.

1. Arlington Human Rights Commission’s “Understanding Restorative Justice” event with Arlington’s Police Chief Fred Ryan and Erin Freeborn, the Executive Director of Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ), on Saturday, October 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Arlington Senior Center (27 Maple Street).  Here’s the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/296326214528836/.

C4RJ led the restorative justice process with the individual who defaced my congregation’s Black Lives Matter banner and, more recently, with 14 youths who covered the Arlington High School with offensive graffiti.  Last year they handled cases from 17 different communities and put out a new “Restorative Practices Guide for Schools” (www.c4rj.org).

2. The Center for Restorative Justice at Suffolk University is offering three training events for people who want to use restorative practices professionally.  These events are limited to 25 people each, and preregistration is required, and there are a few vacancies in each:

Tier 1:  Circle Training and Introduction to Restorative Practices for Educators (Oct. 19-20):  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tier-1-circle-training-and-introduction-to-restorative-practices-for-educators-tickets-49706640901

Tier 2:  Restorative Mindset and Restorative Classroom Management (Nov. 16-17):  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tier-2-restorative-mindset-and-restorative-classroom-management-tickets-49707875594

Tier 3:  Restorative Conferencing for Discipline (Dec. 7-8):  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tier-3-restorative-conferencing-for-discipline-tickets-49708258740

Restorative justice focuses on helping people understand the harm they have done, take responsibility for their actions, and help meet the needs identified by the people they have hurt.  It is important for reducing mass incarceration and the number of people who are burdened with a criminal record, and a helpful approach to school discipline to avoid the school-to-prison pipeline.

Restorative justice often has much better outcomes for everyone than more punitive approaches.  It has a high satisfaction rate among participants (98 percent in C4RJ’s circles last year), but when something happens, people are unlikely to choose restorative justice unless they’ve heard about it already.

Please attend on Oct. 13 for a general introduction to restorative justice, and share these invitations with anyone who might be in a position to use restorative justice in their life or work.

–Lori Kenshaft, EMIT Core member, leader of End Mass Incarceration Working Group of First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Arlington. 

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Omnibus Bill Released

The conference committee released the compromises and many reforms to the Massachusetts justice and corrections systems on Friday, March 24. Their fellow state representatives and senators will vote YES or NO, with no opportunity for amendments, and the bill will go to Governor Baker, who has not yet stated his position.  Advocates are hopeful we would have sufficient votes to override a veto, if necessary.

Below are highlights of the comprehensive bill, which are mostly positive steps in the right direction. There are a few glaring contradictions, such as increasing mandatory minimum sentencing for opiate trafficking and  new laws to protect police officers.

For greater details, open this 7-page PDF:CORRECT_Omnibusbill_2018

HIGHLIGHTS of the Conference Committee’s decisions

Decriminalize minor offenses

Divert minor offenses away from prosecution/incarceration

Reform Bail to reduce unnecessary incarceration

Repeal/limit mandatory minimums for non-opiate, non-weight retail drug offenses

Strengthen minimum mandatories for opiate trafficking

Strengthen Protections for Public Safety

Reduce solitary confinement

Generally improve prison conditions

Release prisoners who are permanently incapacitated and pose no safety risk

Make it easier for people to get back on their feet

Take better care of juveniles and young adults

Improve transparency of the criminal justice system

Better protect women in the criminal justice system

Reduce and remedy errors of justice

 

 

prosecutor's role in Massachusetts

Crucial time to make a burning call

Could you take a minute to call or email your state representative and ask them to support H.4011, the criminal justice reform bill?  
 
Could you ask someone else to do the same?  (Find legislators at https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator .)
Do you want to help strengthen the bill?  Are you curious about this process and want a little bit of civics education?  If so, keep reading.
For context — Proposed amendments must be filed by Nov. 9, and will be voted on early next week, right before the bill itself.  The more legislators co-sponsor an amendment before it is filed, the politically stronger it is.  They can co-sponsor after tomorrow too, but the political impact is smaller.  The Senate bill of An Act to Reform Criminal Justice had 162 proposed amendments, so I suspect plenty of amendments will be filed for the House bill too.
The dilemma — People who want real criminal justice reform face a balancing act.
On the one hand, we want the House bill to be as strong as possible.  After next week’s vote, the House and Senate bills will go to a conference committee, whose job it is to hash out a bill that both the House and the Senate will be willing to support in a yes/no vote (no amendments allowed).  The stronger the House bill, the stronger the final bill is likely to be.  If a provision in the House bill is amended to match the language in the Senate bill, that’s one less thing to negotiate over.  Note that sometimes the House language is better than the Senate language.
On the other hand, the most important thing is to get a law out of this long process.  That means either getting Governor Baker’s support or having enough votes to override a veto.  To be veto-proof, a bill needs two-thirds support in both the House and the Senate.  If the final bill is so ambitious that it can’t get that level of support, we could really lose.
Legislators are now trying to get a sense of how much support various amendments would have.  Would plenty of state reps vote for this amendment?  Does it risk undermining support for the bill as a whole?  How far to push?  How cautious to be?  Massachusetts has 160 state representatives, so that’s a lot of people to talk with.
My suggestion — I don’t have perfect answers to these questions, and I don’t think anyone does.  I do, however, believe it would be helpful for you to ask your state rep to co-sponsor the following 12 possible amendments that are actively being discussed:
+  Raise the lower age of juvenile jurisdiction to 12 (not just 10);
+  Raise the upper age of juvenile jurisdiction to 19;
+  Raise the felony larceny threshold to $1,500 (the level it would be if it had kept up with inflation);
+  Reduce the criminalization of poverty by further reducing or eliminating fines and fees;
+  Eliminate mandatory minimums for all lower-level drug offenses;
+  Raise the thresholds for trafficking (they are currently what someone with a serious substance abuse issue would use in a few days, so would entrap users);
+  Increase pre-arraignment diversion options for juveniles (since getting a court record can affect someone for the rest of their life);
+  Allow juvenile records to be eligible for expungement after 3 years (H.4011 says 10 years, which is a very long time);
+  Put into statute that juveniles are not to be shackled without a specific reason;
+  Follow the advice of Citizens for Juvenile Justice on what juvenile data is important to collect;
+  Protect children by considering primary caretakers’ parental responsibilities when sentencing; and
+  Track the savings from reduced prison populations and reinvest half of it in job training, job placement, and other support for re-entry.
If this makes sense to you, I suggest you make this a two-step process.  First, call your state rep and tell them (or their aide) that you are asking them to vote for H.4011 and co-sponsor some amendments that would strengthen it.  Tell them you will email a list of a dozen amendments, so they will have them in writing rather than taking notes on the phone.  Then, follow up with the email as soon as you get off the phone.  A draft email is below.  Feel free to shorten the list.
It’s helpful for state reps to hear from constituents while making political judgment calls.  It gives them more information, and it lets them tell other legislators they are getting pressure from their constituents.  Most importantly, it lets them know we’re paying attention.  They may or may not do exactly what we ask in any particular decision, but they also have knowledge that we don’t.  When we work together, better decisions get made.
Now more than ever, I believe, it’s important for citizens to understand and participate in our democratic political process.
— Lori Kenschaft, EMIT Core Member
Blog editor’s note: Here are two more amendments that will insure humane treatment for incarcerated people and save the state money:
*  Rep. Balser’s amendments to limit the Department of Corrections’ cruel over-reliance of solitary confinement and to provide data on its use; and
* Rep. Connolly’s two amendments to broaden medical parole for incapacitated and terminally ill inmates, which will save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.
————————————————————-Draft Email—————————————————-
Dear Rep. ________,
Thank you for talking with me today.  [Or, “I want to thank your aide, [name here], for speaking with me today.]
As I said on the phone, I encourage you to vote for the omnibus criminal justice reform bill, H.4011, and for amendments to strengthen it.
In particular, I encourage you to co-sponsor and vote for the following amendments:
+  Raise the lower age of juvenile jurisdiction to 12 (not just 10);
+  Raise the upper age of juvenile jurisdiction to 19;
+  Reduce the criminalization of poverty by further reducing or eliminating fines and fees;
+  Raise the felony larceny threshold to $1,500 (the level it would be if it had kept up with inflation);
+  Eliminate mandatory minimums for all lower-level drug offenses;
+  Raise the thresholds for trafficking (they are currently what someone with a serious substance abuse issue would use in a few days, so would entrap users);
+  Increase pre-arraignment diversion options for juveniles (since getting a court record can affect someone for the rest of their life);
+  Allow juvenile records to be eligible for expungement after 3 years (H.4011 says 10 years, which is a very long time);
+  Put into statute that juveniles are not to be shackled without a specific reason;
+  Follow the advice of Citizens for Juvenile Justice on what juvenile data is important to collect;
+  Protect children by considering primary caretakers’ parental responsibilities when sentencing;
+  Track the savings from reduced prison populations and reinvest half of it in job training, job placement, and other supports;
+  Rep. Balser’s amendments to limit the Department of Corrections’ cruel over-reliance of solitary confinement and to provide data on its use; and
+  Rep. Connolly’s amendments to broaden medical parole for incapacitated and terminally ill inmates, which will save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Thank you for putting more justice into our justice system.
Sincerely,
[Your name]
[Your address and phone number]

Rally for Justice- Tuesday July 8, Hall of Flags 10 am

Over the past 4+ years as a prison volunteer, the most acute awareness I bring home is a sense of freedom.

This weekend as we celebrate freedom and justice, our state senators on Beacon Hill are preparing to debate h4184 on Tuesday, an act relative to juvenile justice [to keep young offenders in jail longer], with an amendment that would setback parole hearings for long-time inmates from every five years to every ten years.

Bottom line is more people, usually poor, black, brown and often mentally ill, will spend more time in prison. We will spend less on education, roads, and health care while incarcerating people at $48K a year, and more.

Join us at a rally Tuesday, 7/8, 10 am in the Hall of Flags at the Statehouse, followed by visits to your state senators. Training and talking points provided.

Call or email your senator http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
as well as the senate leaders below. It takes less than 5 minutes. Live people often answer the phone.

The legislative session ends July 31, and so will this torrent of emails urging you to act. THANKS for your support of freedom. Forward this message to a few friends.

​This bill may be up for Senate Debate Tuesday, July 8Therefore, if you haven’t called, we need you to call speak with your Senator as well as Senate leadership (below) THIS WEEK to let them know that they should support fair sentencing for youth and oppose H.4184. Please urge friends, allies and others to call as well!

CONTACT YOUR OWN SENATOR and leadership with this message:

1. Youth should have an initial opportunity to seek parole no later than 15 YEARS into their sentence. REMEMBER: Eligibility is NOT a guarantee to secure parole, just an opportunity to be reviewed!

2. Everyone should be eligible for further parole hearings, if needed, no later than every 5 YEARS. 10 year setbacks are too extreme.

In addition to your senator, call or email:
Calling takes less than 5 minutes- they want to get rid of you fast!

Sen. Ways and Means Chair Steven Brewer, D-Barre:
617-722-1540 Stephen.Brewer@masenate.gov

Senate Judiciary Chair, William Brownsberger (D. Belmont):
617-722-1280, William.Brownsberger@masenate.gov

President Therese Murray (D. Plymouth):
617-722-1500, Therese.Murray@masenate.gov

Majority Leader Stanley C. Rosenberg (D. Amherst):
617-722-1532, Stan.Rosenberg@masenate.gov

We need your voices to be heard. TIME IS RUNNING SHORT, SO PLEASE CALL TODAY!

Sincerely,
Citizens for Juvenile Justice​