Tag Archives: mass incarceration

Philly shows how a District Attorney influences delivery of “justice”

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].



A preview of 2015 Massachusetts legislation to end mass incarceration

Advocates and lawmakers are working together to draft legislation for the 2015-2016 legislative session on Beacon Hill. EMIT is encouraging voters who want to restore justice for all in the Commonwealth, to contact their state senators and state reps NOW in December, in advance of the January blitz of activity to introduce all of the bills for the 18 month session.

The more co-sponsors behind a proposed bill, the more support it will generate from other legislators. Lawmakers must commit to co-sponsor a bill by Jan. 15, 2015. The bills will be introduced during the first two weeks of January, given a number and assigned to a committee.

Here is a partial list of criminal reform measures we anticipate will be considered by the Massachusetts Legislature.

  • End mandatory minimum sentences related to drug offenses.  Some 70 percent of incarcerated people in Massachusetts prisons and jails are serving sentences set by mandatory minimum sentences, which eliminated judicial discretion. Mandatory minimum sentences have not been shown to increase public safety. There is no evidence to show mandatory minimums deter or reduce crime, or rates of addiction and substance abuse. Mandatory minimums are costly because they keep people incarcerated for longer periods of time than necessary, and disproportionately impact communities of color.
  • Pretrial and bail reform — about 20 percent of the state’s 22,000  people in county jails and state prisons have not been convicted of a crime. Many are awaiting trial because they cannot afford to make a small amount of bail. New legislation would revise how accused individuals are evaluated, and determine if they can safely return to the community and be expected to appear at trial.
  • Ending collateral sanctions by the Registry of Motor Vehicles so that people convicted of drug offenses will be eligible to immediately obtain a driver’s license [instead of waiting for up to 5 years] and eliminate the $500 reinstatement fee.
  • Implement Restorative justice — an approach to community harm, to repair the harm caused by the event instead of punishing the person who committed the crime.
  • Compassionate release to allow terminally ill inmates to be released to the community.
  • Solitary confinement to revise how the Department of Corrections assigns solitary confinement to incarcerated individuals and especially juveniles.

ACTION ALERT: Oppose appointment of Joshua Wall as superior court judge

Joshua Wall, nominated  for superior court judge by Gov. Patrick, will come before the Governor’s Council Sept. 17 at 10 am, Room 157 of the Statehouse on Beacon Hill, Boston.  If you’re like me, you’re thinking “Governor’s council? Who and what are they?”

You vote for them and according to Marilyn Pettino Devaney, District 3 representative for parts of Middlesex County, who returned my call, the Council exists as a check and balance to the appointments made by the Governor.

The Council has the power to deny approval to Joshua Wall, and prevent him from becoming a judge. Wall reportedly regularly broke the golden rule: Treat others as you wish be to treated when interacting with offenders during his service on the Parole Board.

Learn more on his troubled nomination in this WBUR story.  There are multiple reports from many sources of Walls’ poor attitude and disrespect toward incarcerated people who applied for parole, something most incarcerated people face with severe dread and fearful anticipation.

It seems that Wall’s attitude reflects that of American society that has delivered mass incarceration, and made the USA the most incarcerating nation in the world. European nations jail one of every 750 citizens, compared to the USA, which jails one of every 100 citizens.

Overturning the system of mass incarceration rests on a thousand little decisions, such as opposing the appointment of an incarcer-nation judge like Joshua Walls. Take a minute to identify your Governor’s Council representative. Then ask or leave a voice mail, “What is your position on Joshua Wall’s nomination? Why have you taken that stand?” 

Marilyn called me right back to explain that she opposed his appointment to the Parole Board, which makes decisions on whether incarcerated people deserve to be released or given a setback. She was investigating his qualifications for the judgeship and hasn’t made up her mind. She has received calls both pro and con for Wall.

Make your voice heard. Asking questions is especially effective. Let your councilor do most of the talking. Your input can start to turn the ocean liner of our corrupt judicial system that sends a disproportionate number of black, brown, poor and often mentally ill people to prison for long sentences. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts now spends more on incarceration than on higher education, not to mention the waste of lives of people stuck in prison for decades for trivial drug offenses.

We need you to do three things, provided by CEPS, a Massachusetts group, Coalition for Effective Public Safety.

1.  CALL, EMAIL, WRITE, OR VISIT YOUR GOVERNOR’S COUNCILOR AND TELL HIM OR HER TO VOTE “NO” ON THE WALL NOMINATION. Remember, you elect your Governor’s Councilor every two years and the next election for all councilors is this November 4, 2014.

Tell your councilor you are a constituent and you want a “NO” vote cast on Josh Wall’s judicial nomination. Your councilor’s contact information is at the end of this email. Councilors are in the statehouse every Wednesday for in-person visits by constituents and are available at their home offices on other days.

2. ATTEND THE HEARING ON SEPTEMBER 17th and sign in as part of the opposition.

3. FORWARD THIS EMAIL to others who may be interested. We have attached the letter being sent to the Governor’s Councilors.


    –  A constant theme of the complaints about this Parole Board is that Wall does not show respect to prisoners or their families during parole hearings. He often behaves unnecessarily arrogant, confrontational, condescending, dismissive, and insulting towards prisoners and their families. He often is disrespectful to the law students and attorneys who represent the prisoners at parole hearings.

–  Under Chairman Wall, there has been a significant increase in the number of prisoners who “waive” their parole hearings, i.e. decline the opportunity to appear before the Board. This is largely because many prisoners have decided not to attend a hearing when there is little prospect of being granted parole and a high likelihood that they or their loved ones will be treated with disrespect.

    –  Evidence of Wall’s disrespect for prisoners and their families is also shown in his failure to issue timely decisions. Under the Wall Board, lifers and their families have waited an average of 9 months for the Board to issue a decision in their cases. Prior Parole Boards issued their lifer decisions within 60 days.

These are not characteristics the public wishes to see in a judge who must act with impartiality, patience and professionalism. Josh Wall should not be rewarded for his poor conduct as the Chairman of the Parole Board.

As a judge, Wall would have even more power and more opportunity to disrespect the attorneys or defendants who come before him. Furthermore, he would be charged with ruling on motions that could limit defendants’ ability to present a defense and his conduct in the courtroom could negatively impact how juries view defendants during trial.

Most concerning, he would be pronouncing sentences for criminal defendants – the very people for whom he has already shown no respect as the Parole Board Chair.
PLEASE VISIT, EMAIL, WRITE, OR CALL YOUR GOVERNOR’S COUNCILOR. Stories that show Chairman Wall’s disrespect for our clients, their families and their advocates are very helpful because one of the issues the Council is concerned about is judicial temperament, including respect for all parties. (FYI – Josh Wall’s term of office as Parole Board chair is up on June 2, 2015.)

The contact info for the members of the Governor’s Council is below. If you have time, please send your stories and comments to all of them, not just your Councilor. YOUR EFFORTS COULD REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Members of the Steering Committee of the Coalition for Effective Public Safety
To find out the name of your councilor go to:


1.  Oliver P. Cipollini, Jr. – District 1
20 Biscayne Drive
Marstons Mills, MA 02648
GC: 617-725-4015, ext. 1
Res: 508-428-8782
Fax: 617-727-6610
Email: ocipollini@aol.com

2.   Robert L. Jubinville – District 2
487 Adams Street
Milton, MA 02186
GC: 617-725-4015, ext. 2
Bus: 800-828-9010
Fax: 617-698-8004
Email: Jubinville@comcast.net

3.   Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney – District 3
98 Westminster Avenue
Watertown, MA 02472
GC: 617-725-4015 ext. 3
Cell: 617-840-7689
Fax: 617-727-6610
Email: marilynpetittodevaney@gmail.com

4.    Christopher A. Iannella – District 4
263 Pond Street
Boston, MA 02130
GC: 617-725-4015 ext. 4
Bus: 617-227-1538
Fax: 617-742-1424
Email: caiannella@aol.com

5.    Eileen R. Duff – District 5
8 Barberry Heights Road
Gloucester, MA 01930
GC: 617-725-4015 ext. 5
Res: 978-927-8700
Fax: 617-727-6610
Email: eileenduff3@gmail.com

6.   Terrence W. Kennedy – District 6
3 Stafford Road
Lynnfield, MA 01940
GC: 617-725-4015, ext. 6
Bus: 617-387-9809
Fax: 617-727-6610
Email: twklaw@aol.com

7.    Jennie L. Caissie – District 7
53 Fort Hill Road
Oxford, MA 01540
GC: 617-725-4015, ext. 7
Bus: 508-765-0885
Fax: 508-765-0888
Email: jcaissie@caplettelaw.com.com

8.    Michael J. Albano – District 8
403 Maple Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106
GC: 617-725-4015 ext. 8
Bus: 413-525-4438
Fax: 413-525-4887
Email: albanom@the-spa.com

Rep. Niki Tsongas hosts Third District Day

That’s Rep. Niki Tsongas, right, with me, prison reform advocate Susan Tordella, left, April 7 at an opening reception with about 50 other people from Massachusetts who came to D.C. for the event. It was an opportunity to hear from many of our congressional representatives, including Senators Markey and Warren, as well as several representatives such as Capuano and Neal. Some of them had stronger awareness than others about the USA as the top-incarcerating nation in the world. The follow up is to send copies of “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander to all 11 Massachusetts congressional representatives.

New ideas are typically first ridiculed

YES Magazine published a story about how Latin American countries are leaning toward legalizing drugs.

What we are doing now to control the flow of illegal drugs is not working. If the drug industry is legalized, we can tax, regulate and police it — with less corruption, murders, disappearances, prison time, and salaries/pensions/benefits paid to prison staff.

Twenty years ago, my niece, who is just 10 years younger than me, first proposed her Libertarian idea, “I think all drugs should be legalized. If you need cocaine or heroin, go to CVS with a prescription for it.”

I promptly dismissed her idea as preposterous. 

Today, in Canada, Switzerland, Portuagal and Uruguay, addicts are able to access drugs and clean supplies to adminster them. The advantages are many.

1. They do not have to commit crimes in order to purchase the drugs.

2. They do not have to sell drugs to support their habit.

3. They are assured of the purity. You can smile and say, “Who cares if an addict dies?” I’ve met parents of young people who have suffered a fatal overdose. It causes a lifetime of guilt and woulda-shoulda-coulda.

4. They can be offered a path to treatment and recovery because they are in regularly touch with providers.

5. They do not spread diseases.

Mexico and other countries and our inner cities have been destroyed by the corruption, turf fights and crime over drug territory. Many police officers have lost their lives. Prisons are full of people who committed non-violent drug offenses.

Read the story in YES.