By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 13, 2018….Gov. Charlie Baker plans to sign a wide-ranging criminal justice reform bill into law Friday afternoon, advocates said.
“I have great news for you. Governor Baker plans to sign our bill, as is, at 3 p.m. today,” Cherish Casey of the Essex County Community Organization said at a State House press conference.
Casey’s declaration triggered applause and cheers from those in attendance.
The press conference was originally called to urge Baker to sign the bill but took on a celebratory mood as its backers thanked the lawmakers and others who got the long-awaited bill to the governor’s desk…..
As the press conference was unfolding, Baker was holding a meeting of his cabinet Friday morning at the State House.
Baker’s office confirmed he will sign the bill, at 3 p.m. in room 157 at the State House, and said he will also “discuss additional reforms that the administration plans to propose.”
A new district attorney in Philadelphia, Larry Krasner, is following through on his campaign promises to stem the flow of people into prison by decriminalizing poverty and addiction, for starters. See more at this SLATE article below. Art is courtesy of SLATE.com.
EMIT and the ACLU of Massachusetts and others are working together to bring new district attorney candidates to Massachusetts. We need to get rid of the old guard and bring in the new in our 11 district attorney races [for 14 counties].
Thanks to the continued actions of voters, Massachusetts state legislators are poised to take a giant step toward comprehensive justice and corrections systems reform by their Nov. 17, 2017 recess.
The state Senate passed an omnibus bill, S. 2185, on Oct. 27 contatining a series of reforms. The House introduced its own version, H 4011, An Act To Reform Criminal Justice this week, and they are expected to debate it Nov. 14 or 15.
The burning actions to take are:
- Call and email your state rep AGAIN ! and remind him/her you support the SENATE version of reform, which covers more ground, and ask them to vote for amendments to strengthen the House version.
Ask like-minded friends to do the same- forward the note below. Identify your state rep & contact info here.
- Storm the Statehouse in person wearing buttons, t-shirts and stickers to broadcast your position.
There are several options. summary of House justice reform bill
- Weds. Nov. 8“Raise the Age Lobby Day”. Join young people of I Have a Future at 3 p.m.at the State House grand staircase. https://www.facebook.com/events/776630415841283/
- Monday, Nov 13, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO)rally for comprehensive criminal justice reform, 1 p.m.at the State House grand staircase.
- HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:Nov 14 or 15, attend debates in the House of Representatives to amend and discuss the particulars. Legislators want to see supporters in attendance. The sessions usually start at 11 am or 1 pm. More to come on specifics.
Some aspects of the House bill we would like to see strengthened to be in line with the Senate version:
- Raise the felony threshold to $1500. The House proposed it to be $750. It was last set in the 1980s at $250.
- Allow greater permisiveness for juveniles to avoid incarceration, and to expunge their records.
- Include the Romeo and Juliet clause to decriminalize sex between minors of the same age.
- Provide pre-trial services and eliminate incarcerating people between arrest and trial because of poverty.
Here is an email to share with like-minded friends. THANKS for taking action. See you when we STORM THE STATEHOUSE next week.
STORM THE STATEHOUSE email to forward
Please call your state rep before Nov. 13 to encourage him or her to support H4011, An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform. We are exhilarated to be on the cusp of giant steps of reform with the Omnibus Bill, the culmination of more than five years of baby steps.
Please share this email with like-minded friends anywhere in Massachusetts to encourage them to call and email their state representatives. The state Senate passed a stronger version of the Omnibus Bill on Oct. 27.
Attached is an info sheet with details on the House version of the bill.
Identify and optain contact info for your state rep here: https://openstates.org/
Please call, re-call and email your rep. If you get voice mail, ask for a return call from the rep and/or aide.
Here are talking points.
“My name is _____. I am a constituent of Rep._____. I am calling to urge Rep._____ to support H 4011, An Act to Reform Criminal Justice, during the House debate next week. This Omnibus Bill will bring much needed, long overdue, comprehensive reform to our state’s justice and corrections systems.”
“Activists and legislators have campaigned for reform for more than five years, to reduce the number of incarcerated people, to insure humane treatment while incarcerated, and to reduce recidivism.”
“Please support amendments that would more closely align the Senate and House versions of the bill.”
“Now is the time for reform. Many people believe that the system wastes too much money and destroys too many lives.”
“I will be watching to see how Rep. ____ votes on this bill, and share that information with my circle of friends in town. Thank you.”
State senators and the ACLU held their first Commonwealth Conversation on Feb. 28. in Canton. Thanks to Peter Panov of Needham for this report.
The Commonwealth Conversations South Shore Town Hall on Tuesday, February 28th showed widespread interest in justice and corrections systems reform. This Town Hall was for Senators Keenan, O’Connor, Ross, Rush, and Timilty’s districts, however half of the Senate’s 40 members were present.
They explained these meetings represent a portion of setting the Senate’s agenda for the 2017-2018 legislative session. Among several of the frequently repeated themes such as the Safe Communities Act and the planned Weymouth gas compressor station was justice and corrections system reform in the Commonwealth.
Six of the 54 statements (by about 50 citizens attending the meeting) addressed Criminal Justice reform, from: ending mass incarceration in general and mandatory sentencing; to mandatory minimums, solitary confinement, and reducing recidivism; to unnecessary imprisonment, rehabilitation, and the example of a traffic fine becoming a license suspension becoming imprisonment.
From the ACLU Freedom Agenda (which includes “Smart Justice” — shifting from incarceration to rehabilitation) reflecting the speaker’s values; to 60% of our jailed being held pre-trial & 70 percent of those held because they can’t afford bail; to raising the felony larceny threshold, with the remark that Texas’s felony larceny at $2500 required to constitute a felony versus a misdemeanor, is TEN times ours, but Texans are not ten times better!
This is a clear message that moving Massachusetts away from mass incarceration is a priority for many Commonweawlth citizens, who are passionate about some several solutions we need to the many aspects of the problem.
More ACLU/Senator meetings are scheduled in March and April: March 7 in the Southeast; March 14 in Central; March 21 in Northeast; March 28 in Western; April 4 in Metrowest; and April 11 in Northshore.
We have the opportunity to end the criminalization of poverty and “Fine Time” curing the 2017-18 session of the Massachusetts State Legislature. Sen. William Brownsberger has introduced a comprehensive bill to prevent people from imprisonment because of inability to pay fines.
Suspending driver’s licenses creates a vicious cycle: Column
Some states are recognizing the injustice of linking to the ability to pay court-imposed fines and fees.
Though our nation feels more divided than ever, there is a common concern that cuts across party lines and entrenched ideological silos: a pervasive sense that we have failed to give all Americans an equal opportunity to attain the American dream.
Despite our best efforts, government policies too often create obstacles that prevent Americans from climbing the ladder of opportunity. Nowhere is this disparity more evident than in the criminal justice system.
It is universally understood that the justice system should be fair — and that those who violate the law should be held accountable, pay their dues, and move on. But too often, justice comes only for those who can afford it. And all of us pay the price.
Making only about $300 a week, Damian could not pay his fines and fees in 30 days. The court gave him no other payment options. Instead, with no notice and no inquiry into his ability to pay, his driver’s license was automatically suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
As a result, Damian was caught between two untenable choices: risking more fines and possible jail time if caught driving with a suspended license, or losing his job because he didn’t have a way to get to work. Months later, when he was diagnosed with lymphoma, he then had to choose between breaking the law and making his doctors’ appointments.
Second, license suspension for conduct other than drunken driving makes us less safe by diverting resources from critical public safety concerns to arresting, prosecuting, adjudicating and sometimes incarcerating defendants for license suspension cases.
How can we stop this troubling and growing trend?
This type of commonsense criminal justice reform has strong bipartisan support. Even in a divided nation, we can agree that our criminal justice system must dispense justice fairly and equally, and that policies disproportionately punishing the poorest among us have no place in our courts.
Marc Levin is policy director of Right on Crime. Joanna Weiss is director of Criminal Justice Reform, The Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
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