Lawyers e-Journal

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007
Image for Criminal Sentencing
Photograph by Jeff Thiebauth
Panelists at the Oct. 23 Sentencing Symposium in the Statehouse Great Hall, discuss potential improvements in sentencing reform.
From Left to Right: James Alan Fox, Mary Price, Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, William J. Leahy, State Sen. Robert W. Creedon Jr., Roger Goodman, State Rep. Eugene L. O’Flaherty, and David W. White Jr.

MBA President announces Drug Policy Task Force

Formation announced at Oct. 23 Sentencing Symposium

MBA President David W. White Jr. announced the formation of a Drug Policy Task Force during a Sentencing Symposium hosted by the MBA at the Statehouse Tuesday, Oct. 23. The task force will examine current drug policy and consider reforms.

“We look to build a coalition from a broad spectrum of the Massachusetts health care, business and law enforcement communities. The coalition will take a hard look at the difficult questions of drug addiction and punishment of drug-related crimes,” said White, who offered welcoming remarks at the symposium.

“This is one part of our effort to improve sentencing in Massachusetts. Reforms of the current sentencing system will reduce crime, rebuild families and communities and save money,” White said.

White’s announcement came at the end of the two-hour symposium in the Statehouse Great Hall, where key leaders suggested the state could see meaningful sentencing reform for the first time in years. Two panels of legislators, advocates and attorneys discussed the political, financial and ethical issues surrounding the state’s sentencing structure and Criminal Offender Record Information system.

“I’m more optimistic than ever that we can have a useful discussion,” said panelist Sen. Robert S. Creedon Jr., Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

Several panelists, including Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, said mandatory minimum sentences make it difficult to treat inmates with drug addictions and to offer rehabilitation and training programs.

“The sheriffs, we are on the forefront of re-entry programs, but we are stymied by mandatory minimums that don’t allow us to classify people for acceptance into some of our programs,” Cabral said.

The other panelists were:

  • James Alan Fox, PhD, The Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice, Northeastern University, Boston
  • State Rep. Roger Goodman, vice chair, House Judiciary Committee, Washington
  • Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, Esq., Undersecretary of Criminal Justice, Executive Office of Public Safety
  • John J. Larivee, chief executive officer, Community Resources for Justice, Boston
  • William J. Leahy, Esq., chief counsel, Committee for Public Counsel Services, Boston
  • Hon. Robert A. Mulligan, Chief Justice for Administration and Management
  • State Rep. Eugene L. O’Flaherty, House Chairman, Joint Committee on the Judiciary
  • Mary Price, Esq., vice president and general counsel, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Washington, D.C.

White testifies about death penalty before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary

Following the symposium, White testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary about the MBA’s objection to reinstating the death penalty in Massachusetts. Symposium panelist Leahy and Boston Bar Association President Anthony Doniger, among others, joined White to testify.

White testified on behalf of the MBA, outlining the association’s position against reinstating the death penalty because it would cause economic hardship for the state. It costs more money to execute a person than to sentence them to life imprisonment without parole. Because of that, reinstating the death penalty would mean higher taxes and redirecting millions of dollars toward executions.

“As other states have already found, the death penalty process imposes a staggering drain on economic resources. Virtually every Massachusetts citizen would feel the effects of the high cost of trying death penalty cases,” White said.

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