I’ll be interested to see the accounts of people who know more than I, but I’m surprised that the criminal justice reform bill passed by the House seems … impressive! — with some major gaps. It got rid of mandatory minimums for a number of offenses. Even as many DAs fought to keep them, Chief Justice Gants has called for an end to most mandatory minimums, and given that political cover, the legislature is now on board.
Generally, it seems like a major step towards addressing crime in a rehabilitative way. That’s how a civilized culture should act: Punishment for its own sake has its own ugly consequences, and it tends not to work as a deterrent. A society has the right to use imprisonment in order to protect itself, but we mainstreamed pure sadism and torture a long time ago.
House leaders said that by stripping away mandatory-minimum sentences for some drug offenses, including some involving cocaine and methamphetamine, they could provide an easier path back to productive society for some convicts. Those provisions loosely jibe with the Senate’s template.
Also similar to the Senate, the House is looking to expunge criminal records for many offenders, including those who committed crimes when they were juveniles or whose offenses are no longer crimes under state law. That measure has grown particularly salient due to voters’ decision last year to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts.
You don’t say!
The House did unfortunately pass the gratuitous and unnecessary amendment increasing penalties for assaulting a police officer. One can imagine how this might be abused. They didn’t legalize sex between teenagers close in age (not something the state should be involved in policing). They create a mandatory-minimum for selling fentanyl-mixed drugs; that’s a political statement that’s a reaction to the horror of opioid deaths, but I can’t imagine how that’s actually going to save any lives. It’s just the wrong tool for the job. I hope the conference will use some sense and not substitute a political-signaling act for a policy act.
ProgressiveMass again did yeoman’s work, keeping track of all the amendments. Many thanks to them.