Post Date: June 26, 2014
Last week it became official – the Judiciary Committee decided not to move our bills forward in the lawmaking process, but instead sent them to a “study committee.” That means our bills are dead for now – there won’t be any changes to the state’s drug sentencing laws during this session of the Legislature, which will end on July 31. The Judiciary Committee didn’t vote against our bills, which is good, but they didn’t vote for them, either. So the process will start all over again in January 2015, when new bills can be filed.
FAMM is, of course, disappointed. But we also realize that the road to sentencing justice is rarely straight and smooth. We had victories in 2010 and 2012 that brought hundreds of drug offenders home earlier and shortened the sentences of many others. We won’t have another legislative win in 2014, but we made good progress. We educated lawmakers about the harm of harsh drug sentencing laws and the need to approach drug addiction more effectively. We also expanded our network of supportive allies.
Driver’s license suspension law. We are still waiting to see if the final version of the state’s FY 2015 budget will get rid of the automatic suspension of drug offenders’ drivers’ licenses upon conviction. The budget conference committee is expected to file their report soon. Thanks to all of you who weighed in with your legislators.
Criminal Justice Commission. The Criminal Justice Commission’s work is not tied to the Legislature’s schedule and will continue to meet for the rest of 2014. The Commission is starting to vote on a long list of draft recommendations, including more pre-release opportunities, mandatory post-release supervision and, yes, the repeal of mandatory minimums for drugs. FAMM is not a member of the Commission but we attend the meetings and have provided draft recommendations and supporting data.
Candidates’ survey. Finally, FAMM has asked all the candidates who are running for District Attorney, Attorney General and Governor to tell us where they stand on mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. We will compile the results over the summer so you will have that information when you head out to vote in the primaries (September 9) and the general election (November 4).
As always, 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