Post Date: May 13, 2013
As you know, FAMM’s two bills, H.1646, An Act to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenses, and H.1645, An Act to reform the “school zone” law for drug offenses, have been assigned to the Judiciary Committee. This is one of the first steps in the law-making process – see FAMM’s chart here. If you didn’t write to your state legislators in March, please do so now. See below.
The Judiciary Committee recently announced that the public hearing on all sentencing reform bills (step #3 on the chart) will not be held until 2014. There are good reasons for this delay and we plan to make the best use of the time. The current session of the Legislature doesn’t end until July 31, 2014. As you will recall from past years, we can get a lot done in the last few months of the session!
Why the delay? Massachusetts officials have invited the Pew Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP) to conduct an intensive review of our criminal justice system. The PSPP is one of many projects run by the Pew Charitable Trust, a nationally recognized non-partisan think tank. Pew’s PSPP helps states identify ways to reduce prison populations, increase public safety and save money. The PSPP’s services are in great demand. We don’t yet know if they will come to Massachusetts. If they do, they probably wouldn’t finish their review until early 2014. The Judiciary Committee would want to see Pew’s results before deciding which bills should move forward.
In addition, the state’s own criminal justice commission is also working on a set of recommendations, which will include sentencing issues. This commission consists of public safety officials, legislators, prosecutors and defense attorneys, and others. (FAMM is not a member of the commission, but we attend its public meetings.) The commission will release its recommendations whether or not Pew comes to Massachusetts. This, too, will be very useful information for the Judiciary Committee.
What happens in the meantime? Many legislators have offices in their home districts, making it easy for voters to meet with them without needing to travel far. There will be many opportunities for FAMM members to make their views known in the months ahead. We will keep you up to date and help you to prepare.
Did you write to your legislators? In March, we asked you to tell your state legislators that you support FAMM’s bills. If you didn’t, please take a moment to so now. And if you already did, please do so again. We need to keep up the pressure in the months ahead.
Finally, a happy Mother’s Day to everyone! Thank you for your efforts to re-unite mothers with their sons and daughters.
Barbara J. Dougan
Massachusetts Project Director