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SENATE MOVES CLOSER TO COMPREHENSIVE CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

BOSTON-Today the Joint Committee on Judiciary released an omnibus criminal justice reform package that will reduce recidivism, lower costs, and reform some mandatory minimums while implementing other penalties.  The goals of the bill are to encourage authorities to lift people up instead of locking them up and at the same time so support law enforcement in addressing the most serious crimes.

“In state after state criminal justice reform has led to lower incarceration rates, lower crime rates, and lower recidivism rates. It’s time Massachusetts joins the national let’s get smart on crime movement, protecting public safety while improving outcomes with our precious tax dollars,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).

"This bill is about lifting people up instead of locking them up, while focusing attention on the most serious offenders," said Senator William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

The bill is a result of many months of study of best practices in other states and consultation with advocacy organizations and law enforcement to produce legislation that strikes a balance between removing antiquated mandatory minimums for lower level drug offenses and stiffening penalties for drug trafficking and other crimes.

According to a February 2017 report by the Council of State Governments “two-thirds of people leaving [Massachusetts’] Houses of Correction (HOCs) and more than half of those leaving Department of Correction (DOC) facilities in 2011 were re-arraigned within three years of their release.”  This bill addresses both diversion programs and sentencing to better prepare prisoners to re-enter society without ending up back in prison.

The bill addresses the current opioid crisis by implementing new penalties for heroin trafficking and expanding the scope of the Good Samaritan Law for those who help someone having an overdose.  It also eliminates the penalties for possession for being in the presence of heroin.  The bill will make diversion to programs and an alternative to the criminal process more available for young adults and for people with addictions.

The bill now heads to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means for further consideration. 

A summary of the bill is attached.

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