May 11, 2012
The Massachusetts conference committee that is working on a sentencing bill met on Monday, May 7. The meeting was about the House response to the Senate's April proposal. Nothing is final yet. If there is going to be a final bill (the conference committee isn't required to produce one), it can be improved -- and we need your help to do so! Click here to contact your legislators.
Here is where the negotiations stand on the issues that FAMM cares about:
- Reduced mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses -- The House and Senate have both proposed reduced sentences based on the Senate bill passed in November 2011. But we need to keep pushing for a full repeal.
- Eligibility for parole, work release and earned good time for drug offenders now in prison -- Both the House and Senate proposals include these. See the Senate bill for the details.
- Increased earned good time for all prisoners -- This is currently included in both the House and Senate proposals.
- Size of school zones -- The House position has changed from their earlier proposal; it now agrees with the Senate to reduce the zones to 300 feet. While this is better than current law (1,000 feet), FAMM joins the Governor in calling for zones that are 100 feet, the same as for parks and playgrounds.
- Limiting time of school zone law -- Both the House and Senate proposals currently agree that this law should not apply to drug offenses committed between midnight and 5 a.m.
- Habitual offender offenses -- Unfortunately, the House hasn't yet changed one part of the bill it passed in November, concerning the prior convictions that would count toward an habitual offender prosecution. The House proposal still removes the requirement that the two prior convictions must have resulted in sentences of at least three years each. As a result, any two prior sentences to state prison could lead to a maximum sentence. If this language makes it into the final bill, even more nonviolent drug offenders could be prosecuted as habitual offenders than currently are.
- "Three strikes" offenses -- Both the House and Senate proposals currently say that this part of the bill would not apply to any drug offenses. They are still working on the final list of offenses, which is down to around 30. The current House proposal does not include the Senate's suggestion to allow judges to make someone who has been convicted as a third striker eligible for parole for "substantial and compelling reasons."
Keep pushing for a better bill! FAMM members have helped improve the bill, but it's still not what we want. Please write to both your state Representative and Senator. Let them know what you want from the conference committee. Click here to send both messages.
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: email@example.com
By mail: P.O. Box 54, Arlington, MA 02476