Senate’s latest position
June 29, 2012
The Massachusetts legislative conference committee that is working on a sentencing bill met again yesterday. You will recall that we were waiting for the Senate to respond to the last House proposal. The Senate has now released it latest proposal but there are no new developments when it comes to mandatory minimum reforms. In addition, there is still no final bill. The current legislative session ends on July 31. If the conference committee agrees on a final bill, there is still time for the House and Senate to vote on it by July 31.
Mandatory minimum reforms: There have been no changes to these proposed reforms we told you about in our last message. The latest Senate and House proposals both include:
- Reducing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, based on the Senate bill passed in November 2011;
- Making many drug offenders now in prison eligible for parole, work release and earned good time – see the Senate bill for the details;
- Reducing school zones to 300 feet;
- Limiting the school zone law so it would not apply to drug offenses committed between midnight and 5 a.m.
Increased earned good time for all prisoners: There are no changes to report. The latest Senate and House proposals both include:
- Increasing the monthly sentence deduction for each program or activity from 2½ days to 5 days;
- Increasing the total deduction possible in one month from 7½ days to 10 days; and
- Creating an additional 10-day deduction for satisfactorily completing a program lasting six months or more.
Habitual offenders/”three strikes” bill: There hasn’t been much change since we last wrote to you.
- Habitual offenders – The Senate proposal keeps the requirement under current law that the two prior convictions that count toward an habitual offender conviction must have resulted in sentences of at least three years each – which FAMM supports. The latest House proposal removes the three-year requirement. Both proposals push back parole eligibility until ltwo-thirds of the maximum sentence has been served (it’s now after half).
- “Three strikes” offenses – The Senate has added some offenses to the list of crimes that would result in maximum sentences without parole for three convictions from the list. The Senate proposal also provides that judges could make a third striker eligible for parole for “substantial and compelling” reasons. The House version does not include any exceptions. To date, neither the House nor Senate proposals include any drug offenses in the lists of “three strikes” crimes.
This Senate proposal does not include several issues that were in its earlier proposal, such as medical releases for terminally ill prisoners, intensive pre-release planning for state prisoners, and expanded wiretap authority. However, it still includes items that were not in the last House proposal: a Good Samaritan law (protects drug offenders from certain criminal charges if they seek medical help to prevent an overdose); a provision allowing families of addicts to obtain the anti-overdose drug Naxalone; DNA collection; and new crimes for strangulation and certain domestic abuse assaults.
As always, please let us know if you have any questions.
Barbara J. Dougan
Massachusetts Project Director
Contact FAMM’s Massachusetts Project:
By phone: (617) 543-0878
By email: email@example.com
By mail: P.O. Box 54, Arlington, MA 02476