Massachusetts

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History of Legislation:

After leading successful fights to reduce the length of many state mandatory minimum drug sentences, expand parole eligibility for those serving mandatory minimums, and reduce the size of the state’s drug-free school zones, FAMM’s work in Massachusetts will now shift to a supporting role. Because further sentencing reforms are not expected in the immediate future, FAMM is closing down its state program office and suspending its lobbying activities. FAMM’s State Policy Director Greg Newburn will work directly with advocates in the state to continue to promote bold mandatory minimum reform.

Legislation: 

2017: 

This year, both chambers of the Massachusetts legislatures passed comprehensive criminal justice reform packages. Both packages included sentencing reform, however, neither bill went as far as the reforms proposed in FAMM supported bill S.819

Senate Proposal (S. 2185):

  • Eliminates mandatory minimums for distribution of drugs with quantities under the statutory weight threshold. 
  • Raises the threshold for trafficking in cocaine to 100 grams. 
  • Creates a process for granting conditional medical parole to terminally ill inmates with a prognosis of 18 months or less to live and permanently incapacitated inmates. 
  • Adds mandatory minimums for trafficking in fentanyl. 
  • Adds mandatory minimum for assault on a police officer resulting in serious bodily injury. 
  • Allows for drug dealers to be charged with second degree murder in the event that a recipient overdoses. FAMM had opposed an earlier attempt to enact this policy
  • Creates a commission to study the effects of mandatory minimum sentences. 

Read FAMM’s statement on the Senate’s bill here. 

House Proposal (H. 4011): 

  • Eliminates mandatory minimums for distribution of Class B, C, and D drugs with quantities under the statutory weight threshold. 
  • Creates a process for granting medical parole to terminally ill inmates with a prognosis of 12 months or less to live and permanently incapacitated inmates. 
  • Adds mandatory minimums for trafficking in fentanyl and carfentanil. 
  • Adds mandatory minimum for assault on a police officer resulting in serious bodily injury. 

Read FAMM’s statement on the House’s bill here. 

2015: 
FAMM helped key legislators draft a bill to repeal all drug mandatory minimums. However, it appears that no action will be taken this session while the Council for State Governments undertakes its review of Massachusetts’ criminal justice system.

2012:
Mandatory minimum sentences for many drug offenses were shortened, by up to one-third. For drug offenders who were already in prison, many became eligible for parole, work release and earned good time – either at an earlier date or for the first time ever. The size of drug-free school zones was also reduced from 1,000 feet to 300 feet, to better reflect the law’s intent to protect children.

2010:
State lawmakers eased harsh drug sentencing laws for the first time since they were enacted in the 1980s. Certain nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to mandatory minimums sentences at county prisons (called “houses of correction” in Massachusetts) became eligible for parole. 

1980’s:
Massachusetts lawmakers created a system of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. These “one size fits all” sentences are usually based solely on the weight of the drugs in question, not what the person actually did or whether he or she is a danger to public safety. 

QUICK FACTS:

    Massachusetts Dept. of Corrections Expenses/Budget:  

  • State expenses = over $530 million
  • Annual Average Cost per Inmate = $53,040.87 

     State Population: 6.745 million people

     Prison Population: 9,994 people

    Learn how a bill becomes law in Massachusetts (in Spanish).

 

How You Can Advocate for Sentencing Reform in Your State

You can do several things to work toward reforming your state’s sentencing laws – go to our get involved page to find out how.

Encourage your state lawmakers to support mandatory minimum sentencing reform. Be sure to connect with FAMM and other sentencing reformers on Facebook, Twitter, and by signing up for our email list.

Sentencing/Criminal Justice Reform Groups in this State:


November 16, 2017

FAMM’s Statement on Massachusetts House of Representatives Criminal Justice Reform Package

  Contact: Rabiah Burks rburks@famm.org 202.822.6700 FAMM’s Statement on Massachusetts House of Representatives Criminal Justice Reform Package   BOSTON –  Yesterday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a major criminal justice reform package (S.2200), which impacts every phase of the criminal justice system. FAMM is pleased that the House voted to repeal several low-level drug mandatory… Read more »


October 30, 2017

FAMM’s Statement on Massachusetts Senate Criminal Justice Reform Package

Contact: Rabiah Burks rburks@famm.org 202.822.6700 FAMM’s Statement on Massachusetts Senate Criminal Justice Reform Package Yesterday, the Massachusetts Senate passed 27-10 on S.2185, a major criminal justice reform package that impacts every phase of the criminal justice system. FAMM was pleased to see the bill eliminate a number of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, as well… Read more »


May 31, 2017

Residents pressure Sanchez on criminal justice reform

Originally published 4/14/17 at Jamaica Plain Gazette Residents pressured local state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez to take action on criminal justice reform at a public meeting last month on Mission Hill. Sanchez held the meeting to inform residents in his district about the results of a community survey he recently completed, and to answer questions from… Read more »


May 31, 2017

New law would help mitigate time spent in jail due to unpaid fines

Originally published 4/12/17 at The Berkshire Eagle Defendants who can’t afford to pay court fees or fines would be able to perform community service to cover their debt instead of serving jail time, under a bill Gov. Charlie Baker filed Tuesday. The legislation would address a practice known as “fine time,” in which defendants who… Read more »