Category Archives: Statehouse

PLEASE contact your state rep by Friday, Feb. 1

Please email the list below of constructive criminal justice reform bills to your state representative and senator and ask them to co-sponsor these bills. When six constituents contact a legislator, they pay attention.

State reps need to decide which bills to co-sponsor by Friday, February 1, so this is an important week. State senators have a little more time.

After the criminal justice omnibus bill passed in April, there is sparse energy for another comprehensive bill.  Yet there are many issues that were not adequately addressed by the omnibus bill — including:fully decriminalizing substance use disorders;increasing access to parole;bail reform; and providing better options for young adults who are entangled in the system.

Each of these bills would make our criminal legal system more fair and effective, and is supported by at least one of the organizations that participates in the Criminal Justice Working Group. 

Please email the attached list to your state rep and state senator with a cover note asking them to co-sponsor these bills.  The bill numbers and sponsors are included in the list to make it easy for them.

Don’t know who your legislators are?  You can look them up at https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

Thank you very much for taking action.
Lori Kenschaft

Mass Incarceration Working Group of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington and EMIT member

Constructive Bills Related to Criminal Justice  [copy & paste]

January 2019

Each of the following bills would help make the Massachusetts criminal justice system more fair and effective and is supported by one or more organizations that participate in the Criminal Justice Working Group.  Participating organizations include the ACLU of Massachusetts, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, Emancipation Initiative, Greater Boston Legal Services, League of Women of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Community Action Network, and Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery.  This list was compiled by Lori Kenschaft (lori.kenschaft@gmail.com).

Decriminalize Substance Use Disorders

These bills are based on the premise that substance use disorders should be handled as medical and public health problems, not criminalized.

HD.2727 / SD.1477:  An Act Relative to Treatment, Not Imprisonment (Rep. Ruth Balser, Sen. Cindy Friedman).  This bill would allow judges to order a person to get help for an addiction, but prohibit courts from sending a person to jail just for relapsing if they are otherwise engaged in treatment.  Currently someone who is on pretrial release or probation and experiences a relapse can be incarcerated even if they are actively working to achieve long-term recovery.  Incarceration disrupts treatment, endangers recovery, and greatly increases the risk of overdose after an individual returns to the community.  It is both unsafe and unjust to require a person suffering from addiction to remain relapse-free or else face jail.

HD.1044 / SD.1479:  An Act Ensuring Access to Addiction Services (Rep. Ruth Balser, Sen. Cindy Friedman).  This bill would require that men, like women, who are involuntary committed because of an alcohol or other substance abuse disorder be under the care and supervision of the Department of Public Health or Department of Mental Health.  Currently the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center (MASAC) is operated by the Department of Corrections. 

SD.1722 / SD.582:  An Act to Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Sentences Related to Drug Offenses (Sen. Cynthia Creem, Sen. Joseph Boncore).  This bill would further repeal the failed war‑on-drugs policy of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.  Research shows that mandatory minimum sentences have no real effect on crime rates, that incarcerating drug users and low‑level drug dealers does nothing to deter crime or the flow of drugs, and that Black and Hispanic individuals receive more of these sentences.  Mandatory minimums tie the hands of judges and increase the chance that families will be torn apart by incarceration.

Improve Data Collection and Transparency

HD.1780 / SD.336:  An Act Relative to Clarity and Consistency for the Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board (Rep. Michael Day, Sen. Joseph Boncore). 
This bill would expand the data collection and reporting requirements included in the landmark 2018 criminal justice reform bill to include District Attorneys.  Without information from prosecutors about charging and diversion, it is impossible to get a comprehensive picture of the criminal justice system to inform future policy-making and ensure fair treatment.

HD.3412 / SD.795: An Act Improving Juvenile Justice Data Collection (Rep. Chynah Tyler, Sen. Cynthia Creem).  The Massachusetts juvenile justice system still fails to collect or share many of the basic statistical data needed to understand how the system is operating.  As a result, taxpayers are blindly funding a system without adequate metrics to assess its fairness or effectiveness and policymakers are limited in assessing whether what we are doing improves public safety and the outcomes of youth.  Massachusetts also has some of the worst racial disparities in the country.  This legislation would gather key demographic data at major decision points to better identify and evaluate policies or practices that may inadvertently drive children deeper into the system.

Avoid Excessive Punishment of Juveniles

HD.2800 / SD.1731:  An Act to Promote the Education Success of Court Involved Children (Rep. Joan Meschino, Sen. Pat Jehlen).  Current law allows a student charged with any felony to be suspended or expelled from school – prior to arraignment or adjudication – without any opportunity for due process in the juvenile court.  This bill would clarify that students who are facing discipline under §37H and §37H½ are entitled to all of the procedural protections received by students facing discipline under §37H¾.  Requiring additional procedural protections does not prevent schools from implementing serious disciplinary consequences if the principal determines such consequences are warranted.  They simply require the school to take steps to ensure that the offense occurred and was committed by the student being disciplined, and to hear the whole story, including mitigating circumstances, before imposing very serious and potentially life-altering consequences.

HD.2888 / SD.2095:  An Act Decriminalizing Consensual Adolescent Sexual Activity (Rep. Jason Lewis, Sen. Rebecca Rausch).  Massachusetts is one of only four states that criminalizes consensual sexual activity between two adolescents.  Most states have “Romeo and Juliet” laws to ensure that these relationships are handled by parents, not judges.  This bill would protect teens from criminal prosecution for consensual sexual activity with peers.  It would not change the laws that criminalize non-consensual or forcible sexual assaults by youth or consensual activity with a significantly younger individual. 

Promote Better Outcomes for Young Adults

These bills are based on the research showing that young adults are rapidly changing, open to influence, and have distinctive developmental needs until their brains fully mature at the age of roughly 25.  Massachusetts taxpayers spend a disproportionate amount of resources on young adults in the criminal justice system, and they have the worst outcomes.  Studies show that young adults who are handled by a developmentally appropriate system have lower recidivism rates than those in the adult criminal justice system.

HD.2697 / SD.1533: An Act to Reduce Recidivism among Emerging Adults (Reps. Kay Khan & James O’Day, Sen. Cindy Friedman).  This bill would infuse developmentally-appropriate, evidence-informed policies modeled after Massachusetts’ juvenile justice system into the adult system to promote positive outcomes for system-involved young adults (under the age of 25 or 26) and increase public safety by (1) individualized case planning, (2) family engagement, (3) access to education, including post-secondary education, (4) abolishing the use of solitary and restraints, (5) community-based pre-release, (6) access to physical, mental and dental health care, (7) prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, and (8) prohibiting incarceration due solely to lack of placement by another state agency.

HD.1295 / SD.530: An Act to Promote Public Safety and Better Outcomes for Young Adults (Reps. James O’Day & Kay Khan, Sen. Joseph Boncore).  This bill would, over several years, raise the upper age in delinquency and youthful offender cases to include 18- to 20-year-olds.  Young people charged with murder and other serious offenses would still be eligible for adult sentencing.  This bill would expand the upper age of commitment to the Department of Youth Services for emerging adults (ages 18‑20) to ensure that there is an adequate opportunity to rehabilitate older youth entering the system, including extended commitment with DYS in “youthful offender” cases up to age 23.  This bill would help prevent long-term criminal justice system involvement by ensuring that individuals are both held accountable and engaged in the treatment, education, and vocational training that are most effective for their age group.

HD.3449 / SD.1908:  An Act Relative to Expungement (Reps. Marjorie Decker & Kay Khan, Sen. Cynthia Creem).  In 2018 Massachusetts passed legislation that allowed the expungement of criminal records for individuals whose offense was charged prior to their 21st birthday.  While this was an important step forward, the law created significant limitations by allowing only one charge on the record and making over 150 offenses categorically ineligible for expungement.  These strict criteria mean that very few individuals are eligible under this law, which intended to help young people access education, employment and housing.  This bill would close major gaps in the law by (1) letting people expunge records even if they have more than one charge, (2) permitting the expunging of any juvenile offense except never-sealable sex offenses, (3) preventing all juvenile fingerprints from going to the FBI, (4) allowing juvenile records to be sealed immediately by a judge if there was no adjudication, and automatically once the waiting period expires, (5) treating access to youthful offender juvenile court files the same as delinquency cases, and (6) stopping juvenile offenses from triggering mandatory minimum sentences in later adult cases.

HD.1228 / SD.94:  An Act to Prevent the Imposition of Mandatory Minimum Sentences Based on Juvenile Adjudications (Rep. Liz Miranda, Sen. Will Brownsberger).  This bill would prohibit the use of juvenile cases as predicate offenses that trigger later mandatory minimum sentences.  Youth of color and LGBT youth are disproportionately involved in the juvenile justice system and are therefore especially vulnerable to disproportionate penalties as adults.

Allow Judges to Use Discretion in Responding to Probation Violations

SD.1727 / SD.254:  An Act Relative to Probation Violations (Sen. Cynthia Creem, Sen. Will Brownsberger).  A judge may suspend a criminal sentence and allow a person to serve a term of probation.  An anomaly in the Massachusetts law requires, however, that if probation is revoked due to any violation of a condition of probation, the judge has no discretion but to impose the original suspended sentence, even if the new offense is very minor.  This bill would amend the Massachusetts law to, like the current federal law, provide for judicial discretion when incarceration would not be a just and warranted response to a probation violation.

Reduce Recidivism by Better Access to Visits and Calls

These bills are based on studies showing that visits and phone calls help maintain family relationships, reduce violence, reduce recidivism, and promote successful rehabilitation and re-entry.

HD.3011 / SD.2137:  An Act to Strengthen Inmate Visitation (Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Rep. Marjorie Decker).  This bill would eliminate overly broad restrictions on visitation.  The present system discourages visitation and makes it easy to lose connections that are important for good outcomes.

HD.3636 / SD.690:  An Act Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Family Relationships During Incarceration (Rep. Liz Malia, Sen. Harriet Chandler).  This bill would require that jail and prison staff receive training on the importance of visits to those who are incarcerated and the positive benefits of maintaining family ties.  It would also require training on how to promote safety and encourage positive interactions with families and other visitors.

HD.3024 / SD.888 / SD.1741:  An Act Relative to Inmate Telephone Service for Inmates / An Act Relative to Inmate Telephone Calls / An Act Relative to Inmate Telephone Rates (Rep. Chynah Tyler, Sen. Will Brownsberger, Sen. Mark Montigny).  All of these bills would reduce the exorbitant cost of phone calls, which isolates prisoners from their families.  SD.888 would provide for free calls.

Regulate the Use of Force

HD.2372 / SD.2050:  An Act to Create Uniform Standards in Use of Force, Increase Transparency, and Reduce Harm (Rep. Mary Keefe, Sen. Michael Barrett).  This bill would create uniform standards for the use of force in all state and county correctional facilities, including entrance of cell procedures and the use of chemical agents, restraining chairs, and K-9s.  It would require uniform standards for reporting on the use of force against individuals who are incarcerated.  It would also require all correctional officers to wear a personal audio-video recording device that is activated during planned entrance of cell procedures, emergency entrance of cell procedures, and all other uses of force.

HD.2956:  An Act to Reduce Harm by Creating Baseline Standards for Use of Force by K9’s in Correctional Facilities (Rep. Tram Nguyen).  This bill would create uniform standards for the use of force by K-9 dogs in state and county correctional facilities. 

Increase Access to Parole

These bills are based on research showing that people who are released on parole often have better outcomes than those held until the end of their sentences, and at lower expense to taxpayers.  Studies also show that many people “age out” of behaviors that endanger public safety.

HD.3620:  An Act Establishing Presumptive Parole (Rep. David Rogers).  Currently an individual who is eligible for parole has to convince the Parole Board that they deserve to receive parole.  This bill would shift the burden of proof so that the state would have to indicate why an individual who is eligible for parole should not receive it.

HD.1903 / SD.1860:  An Act Relative to Parole (Rep. Andres Vargas, Sen. Cynthia Creem).  This bill would expand the size of parole board to nine members, to decrease time for decisions.  Currently many people wait for months after they are eligible for parole to receive a decision about whether they will be paroled – sometimes until the end of their sentence.  This bill would also require at least three members of the Parole Board to have at least five years of experience in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, social work, or the treatment of substance use disorders.  Expertise in these clinical fields would help the Parole Board more accurately evaluate prisoners.

HD.154 / SD.533:  An Act to Reduce Mass Incarceration (Rep. Jay Livingstone, Sen. Joseph Boncore).  This bill would eliminate the sentence of life without parole, as well as all other sentences or combination of sentences that mandate incarceration for more than 25 years.  It would require the possibility of parole, and the opportunity for a parole hearing, after 25 years.  It would not require release, just a possibility of parole.  This change would be retroactive and would apply to those currently incarcerated.  Currently, one in eight people in our state prison system are serving sentences of life without parole.  People can and do change, especially after 25 years, and those who change should be allowed some hope of not dying in prison.

Protect Voting Rights

Under current Massachusetts law, people who are currently incarcerated because of a felony conviction do not have the right to vote, though their voting rights are returned upon release.  People who are incarcerated for other reasons, including pre-trial or after a misdemeanor conviction, retain the right to vote.  In many cases, though, people do not realize they have voting rights and/or cannot access voting materials.

HD.1107 / SD.1814:  An Act to Increase Voter Registration, Participation, and to Help Prevent Recidivism (Rep. Russell Holmes, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz).  This bill would protect the voting rights of incarcerated people who retain that right.  It would require access to voter registration, voter information, and absentee ballots for incarcerated people who have the right to vote.  It would also require the education of prisoners, attorneys, judges, election officials, correction officials, parole and probation officers, and members of the public about when voting rights are lost, not lost, and restored.  This bill was drafted by the incarcerated members of the African American Coalition Committee at MCI-Norfolk, the state’s largest prison.

SD.25 & SD.26:  Proposal for a Legislative Amendment to the Constitution Relative to Voting Rights & An Act Relative to Voting Rights (Sen. Adam Hinds).  Together, these bills would restore the right to vote to all citizens who are incarcerated, including those convicted of a felony.

Increase Access to Re-entry Programs

HD.1096 / SD.1178:  An Act Relative to Community Corrections: Increasing Access to Reentry Programs (Rep. Frank Moran, Sen. Will Brownsberger).  This bill would make all formerly incarcerated people eligible to participate in reentry services at the nineteen existing Community Corrections Centers, which provide assistance with housing, jobs, and treatment for substance use disorders.  It would authorize the Department of Probation to allow effective non-profits to offer reentry programs and to separate reentry services from sanctions and corrections locations.  It would also require the Department of Corrections and county Houses of Correction to provide departing prisoners with government identification cards and with information about re-entry services.

Reduce Recidivism by Increasing Employment Opportunities

HD.3637:  An Act Promoting Family Stability by Further Reforming Criminal Offender Record Information, Increasing Access to Employment and Preventing Unfair Accrual of Debt (Rep. Liz Malia).  This bill would increase access to jobs by ending the disqualification of drivers from transportation-related positions based on criminal cases that ended favorably in dismissals and by amending the casino-gaming law to end the disqualification of job applicants based on felony theft convictions (until 2018 the threshold for a felony theft was just $250).  This bill would also require that people who are incarcerated be given information about their right to request a reduction in child support orders while they are incarcerated, to avoid racking up massive child support debt that they have no ability to pay.

HD.3635:  An Act Providing Easier and Greater Access to Record Sealing (Rep. Liz Malia).  This bill would provide for the automatic sealing of records after the applicable waiting period.  The sealing process is now done manually for each and every request, and a request has to be mailed or delivered to the Office of the Commissioner of Probation.  This change would increase efficiency and benefit many people who are harmed by their criminal records but unaware of their right to seal their records.

Protect Civil Liberties

HD.2759 / SD.1804 An Act Relative to Forfeiture Reform (Rep. Jay Livingstone, Sen. Cynthia Creem). 
This bill would require that a person be convicted of a crime before the government can take their private property.  An independent survey of state forfeiture laws gave Massachusetts an ‘F’ grade in our use and abuse of forfeiture laws. 


HD.2726 / SD.671:  An Act Relative to Unregulated Face Recognition and Emerging Biometric Surveillance Technologies (Rep. David Rogers, Sen. Cynthia Creem).  This bill would establish a moratorium on unregulated government use of face recognition and other biometric monitoring technologies that can screen, identify, and surveil people from a distance without their awareness and without any privacy protections.  

HD.1978 / SD.1229:  An Act to Protect Electronic Privacy (Rep. Sarah Peake, Sen. Hariette Chandler).  This bill would require a warrant for access to information about your cell phone and computer use. 


HD.1710:  An Act Relative to Access to Justice (Rep. Michael Day, Rep. Marjorie Decker).  This bill would ensure that all victims, witnesses, defendants, and people with civil matters in court receive due process and are able to attend court proceedings in safety.  Massachusetts courts must be places of redress and justice — for immigrants, and for all. 


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

 

 

NEW INFO: Omnibus Bill may come out of conference committee on Friday, 3/23

​TENTATIVE ACCORD REACHED ON GAME-CHANGING CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILL

By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 21, 2018….The six House and Senate lawmakers negotiating a complex overhaul of the state’s sentencing and criminal justice laws have reached a tentative agreement that is expected to be finalized before the end of the week, according to multiple sources.

The conference committee, led by Sen. William Brownsberger and Rep. Claire Cronin, has been privately negotiating the details of the bill since November.

The competing House and Senate bills (H 4043/S 2200) broadly seek to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to encompass 18-year-olds, repeal some mandatory minimums for drug offenses, address the use of solitary confinement and give judges greater leeway in sentencing street level drug-dealers.

Passage of a criminal justice bill in the coming weeks would mark a major accomplishment for lawmakers before they head into the state budget cycle. The emergence of a final legislative compromise could also make clear possible areas of policy differences between lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker.

House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano, one of the three House conferees, confirmed to the News Service that the group was nearing a final compromise.

“Things are progressing and there is reason to be optimistic that it will be resolved by the end of the week,” the Quincy Democrat said Wednesday.

Several other sources at the State House told the News Service Wednesday that copies of the finalized bill were being circulated among legal counsel for review, and the conference report could be signed by the conferees and filed with the Senate clerk’s office by Friday.

Brownsberger did not return a message left on his cellphone on Wednesday.

Gov. Charlie Baker was in Haverhill on Tuesday with a collection of local law enforcement officials and district prosecutors urging the House and Senate to use the criminal justice bill as a vehicle to tweak the state’s three-year-old fentanyl trafficking law to make it more enforceable by prosecutors.

Criminal justice reform advocates will also be watching closely to see how the Legislature approaches mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses.

Details of the tentative compromise were not immediately available on Wednesday.

Other lawmakers on the conference committee include Rep. Sheila Harrington, a Republican, and Sens. Cynthia Creem and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr.

-END-
03/21/2018


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Influence & inform your state rep AGAIN ! It’s critical & timely

TODAY, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, the Massachusetts House will hopefully start debating on 212 possible amendments to its big criminal justice reform bill, and we expect a vote on the bill by WednesdayWe’re in the final stretch!

We need YOUR HELP to make this bill as strong as possible. Here are three things you can do:

(1)  Email your state rep the attached list of requested votes.  The list includes “YES” votes on amendments that would help make our justice system more fair and effective, and critically important “NO” votes.   The list itself is simple, to make it easy for state reps to use.   Click here for the list:  H 4011 Requested Votes

Check whether your state rep sponsored any of the positive amendments.  If so, thank them for that.  (You can look up your state rep at https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator .)

Use a subject line like “Vote requests for H.4011 & amendments.”  The body of the email can be short and sweet:

Dear Representative XXX,

I am excited by the current opportunity for comprehensive criminal justice reform in Massachusetts.  [Thank you especially for your leadership on YYY.]

I hope you will help make our justice system more fair and effective by voting on amendments to H.4011 as requested in the attached document.

Most importantly, I hope H.4011 will pass with a resounding majority.

Thank you!

(2)  Attend any part of the House debate.  The House will likely start to debate this bill  at around 1 p.m on MondayTuesday, and Wednesday (Nov. 13-15).

 Sometimes sessions go well into the evening. You call the State House at 617-722-2000 and ask whether the House is still in session.
Email or text your state rep to tell them you’re there and/or drop by their office to say hi to their staff and possibly drop off a paper copy of the amendments requests.
Wear light-colored or bright-colored clothing with a message printed or a button, and sit in the front row of the balcony (which is on the fourth floor).  We want our presence to be known and visible!
(3)  Share this email with anyone you think might want to help improve our Commonwealth’s justice system.

Thank you for anything you can do!  
Activists [like YOU] have created the momentum for this exciting opportunity for several years. PLEASE email your rep the list of amendments RIGHT NOW.

Here’s hoping for a strong bill with a 2/3 veto-proof majority . . .
Susan Tordella
Thanks to EMIT core members Lori Kenschaft for compiling the email and the list of amendments, and for Lauren Gibbs additions.
 
And thanks to YOU for participating in our democracy, to correct some of the worst injustices of our time.

Statehouse rally Oct 12, reform in reach

Some degree of comprehensive criminal justice reform in Massachusetts is likely in the next few months.  The question is how much.

The MA State Senate is expected to vote on its omnibus bill, S.2170, sometime in the next two weeks, perhaps on October 19th.  The House omnibus bill will probably be reported out shortly after that, and Speaker DeLeo said he hopes it will be voted on and the two bills sent to a conference committee before Thanksgiving.  Depending on how arduous that process is, we might have comprehensive criminal justice reform in Massachusetts by the end of December.  Exciting times indeed!

The biggest dangers here are that the Senate bill may be weakened by amendments, the House bill might be a lot weaker than the Senate bill, and the resulting law might not have much impact.

There may also be an opportunity to strengthen the Senate bill, especially its provisions regarding the conditions of solitary confinement.

If the proposed MA Senate omnibus became law, it would improve thousands of people’s lives.  Among other things, it would:

+  Reduce fees, fines, and other collateral consequences that trap people in a cycle of poverty and recidivism;
+  Raise the age for being tried as an adult to 19, with a mechanism to consider raising it to 20 or 21 in the future;
+  Promote the use of restorative justice;
+  Repeal mandatory minimums for lower-level drug offenses;
+  Expand eligibility for diversion to drug treatment;
+  Implement the SJC ruling that bail must be affordable;
+  Raise the felony larceny threshold from $250 to $1,500, in keeping with other states;
+  Allow records to be sealed after 3 years for misdemeanors and 7 years for felonies;
+  Restrict the use of solitary confinement and improve its conditions;
+  Provide for medical release of people who are incapacitated or terminally ill; and
+  Decriminalize disturbing a school assembly and sexual activitiy between young people close in age, also know as the Romeo and Juliet provision.

Six things you can do to help make real reform a reality:

(1)  Come to a rally for criminal justice reform today — Thursday, October 12 — 11 a.m. on the grand staircase in the State House.

(2)  Call or email your state senator and ask them to vote for the criminal justice reform omnibus bill, S.2170, without amendments that would compromise its goals.  You could add a request that they support amendments that would further improve the conditions of solitary confinement.

(3)  Call or email your state representative and ask them to make sure that Rep. Claire Cronin, the House Judiciary Committee co-chair, knows that they support a strong omnibus bill.  You could add that you hope the House bill will include some or all of the priorities listed above.  (You can look up your legislators at https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator .)

(4)  Send letters to the editor to your local paper explaining why you think these issues are important and supporting the Senate omnibus bill.

(5)  Write supportive comments (questions are fine too) on Sen. Will Brownsberger’s blog at https://willbrownsberger.com/senate-criminal-justice-reform-package/

(6)  Share this information with your friends (by social media, email, or good old-fashioned conversation) and tell them you’re excited by this opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Lori Kenschaft

On behalf of EMIT leadership team

EMIT — End Mass Incarceration Together
a statewide grassroots all-volunteer working group of Unitarian Universalism Mass Action Network

The only way to reform our state’s judicial and corrections systems is through a number of bills passed over several years.
This requires regular contact with your state legislators.

​EMIT
End Mass Incarceration Together
a statewide grassroots volunteer
working group of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network
http://www.endmassincarcerationtogether.wordpress.com

Good Omens at the State House — & How You Can Help Turn Them Into Good News

September 13, 2017:  The chances for comprehensive criminal justice reform at the State House are looking good.  Nothing is certain yet, but here’s some backgound and then one thing you can do that would really help.
Background:  The current plan is that the Senate and House will each pass two bills — the bill about reducing recidivism that came out of the Council of State Governments process and is sponsored by Gov. Charlie Baker, and an “everything else” bill that brings together a wide range of issues into one package.  The Senate’s omnibus bill is likely to come out first, and it is likely to draw the essence of more than forty bills into one comprehensive package that includes most of what people like me have been advocating for.  The House’s omnibus bill may not be as comprehensive, as the goal is to propose a bill that will get enough votes to pass, and the common wisdom is that the House is less welcoming to reforms than the Senate.  It’s also really clear, though, that the grassroots advocacy and organizing of the last few years has made a difference, as legislators are now seriously considering proposals that a few years ago they would have dismissed out of hand.
What You Can Do Now Rep. Claire Cronin, the House co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, has invited all members of the House to make an appointment to talk with her about their opinions of criminal justice reform in the next few weeks.  If you think that your state rep supports criminal justice reform, please call them and ask them to talk with Rep. Cronin and tell her that they hope she will be ambitious in her proposals for criminal justice reform.  (There are a few reps who seem opposed to just about everything in this space.  If that describes your rep, please don’t contact them in the next few weeks — let them think about other issues and forget to talk with Rep. Cronin 🙂 .)
Thoughts about strategy:  For years now, people have been working on a wide variety of bills, each of which focuses on one or a few priorities.  We have tried to educate legislators and the public about these issues, why they are important, and what’s in each bill.  This year dozens of bills related to criminal justice reform have been filed, and only a handful of people (primarily legislators on the Judiciary Committee and their staff) have any chance of getting on top of the contents of all of them.  Dozens of these bills will feed into the House and Senate omnibus bills, which will be long and complicated.  Unless your legislator is on the Judiciary Committee — and perhaps even then — trying to get them to engage with the details of a comprehensive bill is asking too much.
Instead, our role now is to raise enthusiasm for the concept of broad and ambitious criminal justice reform.  If your state rep cares about specific bills and wants to ask Rep. Cronin to include them in the package bill, great.  But what Rep. Cronin really needs to hear is that lots of state reps are inclined to support an omnibus bill that she brings forward, and they want her to make it strong and ambitious.  She and her staff are currently working on what to include and how it all fits together.  They will include more if they get the message that state reps are broadly enthusiastic about a strong reform package.  And state reps are more likely to give that message if they hear it from their constituents — i.e., us.
If you don’t know your state rep’s phone number, you can look them up here:  https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator  A phone call is best, but if you can’t get yourself to place a call then an email can be helpful too.
Thank you for anything you can do!
Lori Kenschaft
EMIT Core member and coordinator, Mass Incarceration Working Group of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington

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

WHAT YOU CAN DO
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 lwagner@uumassaction.org