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Why FAMM is working in Massachusetts 

In 2017, each chamber of the Massachusetts legislature passed their own criminal justice reform package. Both packages included sentencing reform as well as proposals to introduce medical parole in the Commonwealth. A conference committee was appointed in December 2017 to reconcile the differences between the two bills and put forth legislation to be decided on in 2018.

2018 Reforms FAMM Supports: 

While both the Senate and House packages have their strengths and weaknesses, including new mandatory minimums found in each, FAMM finds the Senate bill to be a much more significant step forward for Massachusetts. The Senate’s version eliminates more mandatory minimum sentences and provides a much more effective and efficient proposal for a medical parole system than its House counterpart. FAMM will continue to encourage the conference committee to tack closer to the Senate legislation as they reach an agreement on final legislation. The conference has elected to conduct their business privately and their deliberations will not be made public. Once the committee reaches an agreement, the legislation will need to pass both chambers and receive the governor’s signature before coming law. 

Senate Proposal (S. 2200):

  • 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. 

House Proposal (H. 4043)

  • 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. 

Resources: 

These resources explain the contents of the two bills passed by each chamber of the Massachusetts legislature and their strengths and weaknesses. 

FAMM’s Statement on Massachusetts Senate Criminal Justice Reform Package

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

Medical Parole in Massachusetts: National Organizations Weigh In

History of Legislation:

2017: 

In 2017, FAMM supported S.819 sponsored by Senator Cynthia Creem. This bill would have repealed Massachusetts’ mandatory minimum drug laws.  

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.  

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:


January 9, 2018

Medical Parole in Massachusetts: National Organizations Weigh In

Contact: Rabiah Burks rburks@famm.org 202.822.6700 Medical Parole in Massachusetts: National Organizations Weigh In   Today, members of the Campaign for Compassionate Release, a national group of criminal justice reform, health policy, human rights, and faith-based organizations, sent a letter to Massachusetts’ legislators urging them to expand the use of medical parole. The Campaign was formed to… Read more »


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 »