Parts of new law build on 2010 drug sentencing reforms
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: July 31, 2012
Contact: Barbara J. Dougan (617) 543-0878
BOSTON: Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) welcomes the reforms to mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws that are part of the sentencing bill that Gov. Deval Patrick has agreed to sign into law. The new law includes reforms that FAMM has supported for years: limiting the state’s “school zone” law and making some drug offenders now in prison eligible for the same reentry opportunities – parole, work release and earned good time – that are available to most other prisoners. The new law also reduces the length of some mandatory minimum sentences and increases the quantity of drugs needed to trigger certain low-level trafficking offenses. The current reforms build on the first-ever reforms enacted in 2010, when certain nonviolent drug offenders in county houses of correction became eligible for parole.
FAMM’s Massachusetts project director Barbara J. Dougan made the following statement about the new law:
“FAMM and its members welcome these sentencing reforms, as Massachusetts continues to improve ineffective and costly one-size-fits-all sentences for drug offenders. In the coming years, hundreds of drug offenders now in prison will benefit from the new law. They will be eligible for parole and have the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of returning home sooner. They will also be better able to prepare for their eventual return to the community due to their eligibility for work release and earned good conduct credits through vocational and educational programs.”
Eric Duphily, now serving a 13-year sentence for selling cocaine, is one prisoner who may benefit from the new law. At the time of his arrest, Duphily was addicted to cocaine and sold drugs to pay off a debt to his supplier. Yet he received the kind of sentence intended for kingpins.
Dougan said, “A nonviolent offender like Eric Duphily could be a tax-paying member of his community, using his productivity to support his family. Instead, taxpayers are supporting him at the cost of about $46,000 a year. Now he will have a chance to prove that is a good candidate for parole. But there is more to be done. Other states have moved beyond outdated ‘tough on crime’ laws by investing taxpayers’ money in treatment and re-entry programs to more effectively address recidivism. We look forward to Massachusetts joining that trend in the next legislative session.”
While FAMM welcomes the mandatory minimum reforms, Dougan noted that habitual offenders sentenced under the new “three strikes” section of the law will, without exception, receive the maximum sentence with no possibility of parole. Dougan said, “Whenever courts are required to impose mandatory sentences, inevitably there are cases where the punishment exceeds the crime. When the courts are required to impose maximum sentences, and possibly life sentences, it is even more critical to have a safety valve mechanism in place to avoid an excessive sentence is certain cases. We greatly appreciated the efforts of Gov. Patrick, Sen. Creem and other legislators to add limited judicial discretion to the law.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that supports fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety. In 2008, FAMM launched a project in Massachusetts to reform state mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug and school zone offenses.
For more information on Mr. Duphily’s case, Massachusetts’ mandatory sentencing laws, or FAMM’s perspective on the new sentencing law, please visit FAMM’s website or contact FAMM Massachusetts Project Director, Barbara J. Dougan, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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