Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009
Senate passes legislation granting parole eligibility for non-violent drug offenders serving mandatory minimum sentences; Legislature tackles several court-related veto overrides
Sentencing reform in Massachusetts cleared a major hurdle
Wednesday night when the Senate, prior to the end of this year's
legislative session, passed legislation that would grant parole
eligibility for non-violent drug offenders serving mandatory
The MBA is a long-standing opponent of mandatory minimum
sentences and has been outspoken in support of reforms to mandatory
minimum drug sentencing laws. The astronomical increase in the
Massachusetts correctional population is due, in large part, to the
increase in drug arrests. It costs $48,000 per year to house an
offender. Non violent drug offenders face a one-size-fits-all
justice system in which previous offenses or their role in the
offense are not taken into account. Offenders have no incentive to
plead guilty since judges have no discretion over the sentence,
thus most cases go to trial.
The MBA's Drug Policy Task Force issued a report earlier this
year recommending meaningful drug reform for non violent drug
offenders including reform of mandatory minimum drug sentences. For
a copy of the report, click
here. In addition to the cost savings, enactment of this
legislation would reduce recidivism. Instead of being released
directly into the community, this legislation would grant offenders
eligibility for parole and work-release programs. Numerous studies
have shown that offenders who gradually re-enter their communities
have a much lower recidivism rate than someone who walks right out
of a correctional facility and into society.
The MBA has also been supportive of efforts to revise CORI laws
to provide our citizens with greater accuracy, earlier sealing of
records and greater clarity in the reports.
The bill now awaits action by the House of Representatives.
Formal legislative sessions have ended for the year and will resume
In the waning hours of the Legislature's formal session, they
tackled several court related veto overrides. In the FY10 budget,
Gov. Deval Patrick vetoed a $950,000 trial court account. The
Legislature last night overrode that veto.
The Legislature also restored $4.1 million of the $9 million cut
from the Probation Department and $300,000 of the $788,786 cut from