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.”
Gov. Baker [of Massachusetts] has proposed $640 million for the Department of Corrections [DOC] for 2019 PLUS a line item for $11 million for the training and hiring of 200 new correctional officers [COs]. The DOC now spends less than 2 percent on programs for incarcerated people.
Does this reflect our priorities or prepare people to return home? Some 92 percent of all incarcerated people will return home.
Another possibility is to transition toward the goal that all COs serve as program officers, who share a skill and/or knowledge with the people in their care. The program can be practically anything–culinary, GED preparation/tutoring, plumbing, carpentry, writing, running a small business, yoga/mindfulness, college or high school classes, computer repair/programming, job skills, trauma awareness/healing, or sales and communication skills, to name a few possibilities.
“The union would never go for it,” according to naysayers. What about tuning into the WIFM channel — What’s in it for me?
When every CO is a program officer, they:
- Would work in a safer environment because their relationships with incarcerated people would be transformed from adversarial and punishment to one of friendly guidance;
- Would have more interesting satisfying jobs, that go deeper than providing security and warehousing, with opportunities to help people;
- Might have less suicide and/or substance abuse disorder, better relationships at work and at home, and improved mental and physical health in the short and long term.
Wouldn’t that be motivation for the union to work toward constructive change within the system?
With a healthier environment, other problems might dissipate, such as contraband and drug distribution and use inside; gang membership; violence; mental illness; idleness and lack of motivation and rehabilitation.
New ideas are typically first ridiculed. More humane prisons in Europe have demonstrated that more progressive prisons and jails result in dramatically lower rates of recidivism.
We have nothing to lose from implementing something NEW in our broken correctional system, which depends on repeat customers filling our prisons and jails. It would give the opportunity for the DOC to fulfill its motto of “Manage, Care, Program, Prepare.”
Great news! Yesterday the state Senate voted unanimously for the conference committee
version of the criminal justice omnibus bill, and then the House voted for it 148-5. This is fabulous! Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen.
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
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.
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corrections systems. The bad news is that legislators are afraid of political repercussions of being smart on crime instead of tough on crime, out-dated practices that delivered us a racist system of mass incarceration.