Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform Legislation Moves Forward in State House

Print More

Wikimedia Commons / Chensiyuan

Massachusetts State House.

Wikimedia Commons / Chensiyuan

Massachusetts State House.

State Sen. Will Brownsberger, from Belmont who represents Watertown, announced that House and Senate have released legislation that would reform the criminal justice system in Massachusetts.

Brownsberger included a detailed summary of the legislation on his website.

Some of the changes would be:

  • Strengthen mandatory minimum penalties for opiate trafficking offenses
  • Reducing minimum mandatory penalties for non-opiate drug offenses
  • Creating alternatives to prosecution or incarceration for minor offenses
  • Decriminalizing some minor offenses
  • Strengthen protections for public safety, including penalties for some types of crime, including corporate manslaughter, homicide by motor vehicle, unlawful possession of a credit card scanner, and high number of repeat OUIs.
  • Improving prisons, and reducing the use of solitary confinement

(Read the entire summary on Brownsberger’s website by clicking here)

Below is the press release from legislators who worked on the legislation:

House and Senate legislators filed their final criminal justice reform conference report with the Senate Clerk on Friday. The consensus legislation is a comprehensive review of the Commonwealth’s criminal justice system.

The Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Senator William Brownsberger and Representative Claire Cronin, were joined on the conference committee by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano, and Representative Sheila Harrington.

“The agreement we have reached today is about lifting people up instead of locking people up,” said Senator William N. Brownsberger (D-Belmont). “This is about cutting the chains that hold people down when they are trying to get back on their feet.”

“The compromise piece of legislation makes reforms to all aspects of the criminal justice system, from the time a person first comes in contact with the criminal justice system through the time a person re-enters society. These reforms will give people a second chance to rebuild their lives, while also preserving public safety,” said Representative Claire Cronin (D-Easton).  “We have released a comprehensive and workable bill that will have a meaningful impact on the criminal justice system.”

The bill focuses significantly on rehabilitation and facilitating re-entry into society. This includes: reducing fees imposed on defendants; mandating that national fingerprint records are sealed or expunged when state criminal records are sealed or expunged; reducing entanglements with the registry of motor vehicles; and implementing additional policies to ensure the privacy of criminal records.

“The work of this conference committee and the reforms it contains will positively impact our criminal justice system for years to come,” said Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton). “For too long, our approach to criminal justice has been primarily focused on the punitive side of the system.  This bill takes a much more balanced approach and it reflects positively on this Legislature’s ability to work together to achieve common goals.”

“Individuals in our communities deserve a chance to effectively transition back into productive members of society, and this bill eliminates roadblocks toward achieving that goal,” said House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy). “We believe these changes will be instrumental in encouraging folks that mistakes of their past will not serve as a life sentence.”

“This comprehensive modernization of our criminal justice system would increase rehabilitation opportunities for offenders who are likely to return to our communities while also confronting, with strong and enforceable increased penalties, those who threaten our society by selling synthetic opiates such as fentanyl and carfentanil,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester). “The conference report also contains other important measures, such as those that strengthen the oversight of our state’s crime labs, that properly penalize reckless driving, and that cause stronger collection of critical DNA evidence.”

“It was a great bipartisan effort and a great bicameral effort. I was proud to be part of the team,” said Representative Sheila Harrington (R-Groton).

The legislation also enacts a number of additional policy changes, including: decriminalization of minor offenses; diversion of minor offenses away from prosecution/incarceration; bail reform to reduce unnecessary incarceration; repeal and limiting of mandatory minimums for non-opiate, non-weight retail drug offenses; strengthening of minimum mandatories for opiates; reduction of solitary confinement; improvement of prison conditions; release of prisoners who are permanently incapacitated and pose no safety risk; policies to provide better care for juveniles, young adults and women in the criminal justice system; and policies to strengthen protections for public safety and witness protection.

The full text of the report can be found on the Massachusetts General Court website here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *