MEDIA CONTACT: Barbara Dougan, (617) 543-0878
BOSTON – Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) congratulates the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Commission for today’s vote to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.
“Public support for one-size-fits-all drug sentences is at an all-time low,” said Barbara J. Dougan, FAMM’s Massachusetts project director. “The last 30 years have shown that mandatory minimum sentences do not work as intended. Neither drug abuse nor drug offenses have declined. Harsh mandatory prison sentences may have sounded good in the 1980’s but we now know that they actually prevent addicts from getting the help they need.”
FAMM provided the Commission with information on the disproportionate penalties for drug offenses, the over-incarceration of drug offenders, and the racial disparities in terms of who receives mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. The commission, which previously passed a slate of administrative recommendations concerning the state’s criminal justice agencies, is now turning its attention to recommendations that would require action by the Legislature.
Officially known as the “Standing Commission to Study Commonwealth’s Criminal Justice System,” the commission was created by the Massachusetts Legislature to examine, among other issues, mandatory minimum sentences. It is required to issue reports that include recommendations for legislation to reduce recidivism, improve overall public safety outcomes, provide alternatives for defendants with drug-addictions or mental illness, reduce overcrowding of facilities, and increase reliance upon evidence-based criminal justice methods. Its membership is drawn from the three branches of state government and from professional groups with expertise on the issues to be studied.