Post Date: December 12, 2013
Today, FAMM testified at a public hearing held by the Legislature’s Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. Many of the bills that were discussed were about the treatment of prisoners. But one bill, H.3249, included sections about mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, so we needed to make our views known. You can read FAMM’s testimony here.
The main hearing on sentencing reform bills will take place in 2014, when the Judiciary Committee holds its own hearing on several bills, including FAMM’s bills. We will let our members know as soon as the date is set and provide information for those who plan to attend.
H.3249 – mixed reviews. The bill, called “An Act relative to sentencing reform,” is quite long and covers many issues. We spoke in favor of the sections that would repeal mandatory minimums for trafficking and school zone offenses, but questioned why the bill would not also repeal mandatory minimums for distribution offenses. In addition, we opposed a new set of mandatory minimums that the bill would create for those who “use, carry or visibly possess” a gun while committing a drug offense. There are already laws in effect that address the use of guns while committing any crime.
Other issues. The bills that drew the most attention were two bills that would prevent pregnant prisoners from being shackled or restrained during labor and another bill that would limit the use of solitary confinement. Families for Justice As Healing was one of the groups that testified in favor of the anti-shackling bills; you can read their testimony here. Restricting the use of solitary confinement is a top priority for Prisoners’ Legal Services; here is their testimony.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
Barbara J. Dougan
Massachusetts Project Director
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)
Contact FAMM’s Massachusetts Project:
By phone: (617) 543-0878
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By mail: P.O. Box 54, Arlington, MA 02476