Criminal Justice Reform - It's time to make this happen!

Last week, the Senate unveiled the eagerly anticipated Criminal Justice Reform bill. While those of us interested in comprehensive reform did not get everything we wanted, the final Senate version represents a significant step forward in returning some real justice to our criminal justice system. 

So what's in the bill, and what can you do to help? 

 Here are some of the key provisions:

  • Removal of mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenders for non-violent drug violations including drug trafficking near schools, drug paraphernalia ownership, and heroin possession. The bill does not remove heroin trafficking mandatory minimums and rolls fentanyl into the same category as heroin.
  • Expansion of diversion eligibility.
  • Elimination of some court fees, such as the indigent counsel fee, and parole fees, although probation fees are not repealed as we had hoped.
  • Complete overhaul of the bail system in accordance with the SJC ruling earlier this year, ensuring bail will be more affordable to all defendants.
  • Protections for inmates in solitary confinement, who will be regularly reviewed and given the opportunity to be released from solitary if they can show that they are ready to return to general population.  The bill also improves access to programming and guarantees rights to the LGBTQ prisoners.
  • Raise of the age of criminal majority from 18 to 19 and that of criminal culpability from 7 to 12. The bill also allows for consensual sex between teenagers close in age and decriminalizes disturbing a school assembly. It expands diversion availability for those up to age 26.
  • Sealing of criminal records (CORIs) after 3 years for misdemeanors and 7 years after felonies and seals juvenile records after 1 year.
  • Lift of the felony theft threshold to $1,500 from $250.
  • Requirement for the court to make written findings before sentencing a primary caretaker. 
While this bill may not give us all we wanted, especially in terms of repealing all mandatory minimums, it still represents significant reform in Massachusetts. If we want to keep this bill intact and have true meaningful reform, we must act now. The House in Beacon Hill is not on board with these changes, and we face an uphill battle to keep these reforms in the final bill.

So - call or visit your state representative today! Let him or her know that it is important to support the reforms outlined in the Senate's bill. The House is already showing signs of writing a much more conservative bill, so it is really important to make your voice heard NOW!

And please come join us at the State House on Thursday, October 12 at 11:00 a.m. for a rally to support the legislation!
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