The House-Senate conference committee negotiating a compromise criminal justice reform bill finished its work yesterday, agreeing on a comprehensive bill that, in the words of Senate Judiciary Chair William Brownsberger, “is about lifting people up instead of locking people up. And it is about cutting the chains that hold people down when they are trying to get back on their feet.”
Among its many provisions, the bill:
- Repeals or limits some mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, returning sentencing discretion to judges.
- Makes it easier for people to get back on their feet by reducing, by making it easier for people to seal old criminal convictions and by allowing expungement of non-serious cases up to age 21.
- Reduces solitary confinement and generally improves prison conditions.
- Decriminalizes minor offenses or diverts them away from prosecution.
- Reforms bail laws to reduce unnecessary incarceration.
- Releases prisoners who are permanently incapacitated and pose no safety risk.
More info on the bill at Senator Brownsberger’s excellent website.
The bill is a victory for the many advocacy groups — representing many diverse interests — who came together for several years of concerted work. Some of them are listed below (apologies for omissions). It’s also a victory for civic engagement and its possibilities. Let’s do climate change next.
Essex County Community Organization, Pioneer Valley Project, I Have A Future, ACLU Massachusetts, MassINC, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, Progressive Massachusetts, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement, Coalition for Social Justice, Neighbor to Neighbor, Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, ROCA, United Teen Equality Center, Prisoners Legal Services, League of Women Voters, Massachusetts Bail Fund, Committee for Public Counsel Services, Massachusetts Community Action Network, Massachusetts Catholic Conference, Unitarian Universalist Action, SEIU 1109, SEIU 509, SEIU 888, Jewish Community Relations Council, Families for Justice as Healing, Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, NAACP, National Association of Social Workers, Gavin Foundation, Recovery Homes Collaborative, Greater Boston Legal Services, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Coalition for Effective Public Safety, Learn to Cope, All Souls Church/Braintree, Father Bill’s Place, RSVP Restorative Justice, Stuck on Replay, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, Modern Assistance, Sober Mommies, Christ Episcopal Church of Quincy, Faith Lutheran Church of Quincy, First Parish Church Arlington, CASA Winthrop.