Criminal Justice Reform legislation signed

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Fred Berman

Apr 16, 2018, 4:24:15 PM4/16/18
to Jim Vetter, CSfC Criminal Justice Reform,,, Richard Marcus, Caroline Bays

Hi Jim, and CSfC Criminal Justice Reform advocates,


Late last week, Governor Baker signed the Criminal Justice Reform legislation that contains many of the provisions that we advocated for and that our Somerville and Cambridge delegations supported.


A week or so earlier, Sen Jehlen sent the following email when House and Senate legislation was consolidated and passed by the Conference Committee. Her email contains links to prior emails elaborating on the component issues.


Sen. Jehlen cites an excellent blog by Sen. Will Brownsberger (Brighton, Belmont, Watertown) that itemizes the many elements of the bill.  Not everything we advocated was included, but the legislation represents a substantial advance.


Special appreciation to (now City Councilor) Caroline  Bays and Richard Marcus from the Watertown chapter who led the Progressive Mass. effort on behalf of criminal justice reform.




Fred Berman

H: 617-776-0503   C: 617-501-1404 


"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them."

~ Frederick Douglas (1818-1895)




From: Senator Pat Jehlen []
Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2018 10:01 AM
Subject: Criminal Justice 3: Conference Committee Report


View this email in your browser


Yesterday the Senate and House passed a major criminal justice reform bill.  A 6-member conference committee  worked hard to resolve the differences between House and Senate bills and crafted a comprehensive bill that will improve public safety, promote justice, and reduce recidivism in Massachusetts.  Sen. Will Brownsberger, co-chair of the committee with Rep.Claire Cronin, summed it up:

"The agreement we have reached today is about lifting people up instead of locking people up. And it is about cutting the chains that hold people down when they are trying to get back on their feet."

Sen. Brownsberger's always excellent blog has a detailed summary.  I urge you to read it, but I won't reproduce it here.  Highlights include:   

  • decriminalizing some minor offenses,
  • diverting some other offenders from prosecution and incarceration
  • bail reform
  • repealing or limiting minimum mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenses, but strengthening them for opioid trafficking
  • reducing solitary confinement
  • reducing collateral damages

A Globe editorial favoring the bill pointed out that, while Massachusetts' incarceration rate is low compared to other states, if we were a country our rate would be 12th highest in the world.  See also my newsletters on criminal justice problems and solutions.

I was especially pleased that bills I've sponsored and focused on were included:


Massachusetts is one of only five states without a medical parole program, which would allow terminally ill or permanently incapacitated prisoners to be paroled to a hospital or hospice.  I have worked for years with Prisoners Legal Services, Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, and others to pass such a bill here.  Its provisions are in the omnibus bill.

Like other states, we have a rapidly growing elderly prison population.  Caring for prisoners who need nursing home level care is extremely expensive, inefficient, and inhumane.  At the Shirley medium security prison's equivalent of a nursing home, I saw a man who had not moved in years; he was hardly a threat to anyone. When such prisoners are sent to a hospital, as they often are, they are guarded 24 hours a day by two corrections officers.
I told the Globe, "I don’t see a public purpose in keeping people in prison if they are dying or they are totally immobile.  It’s not making the family of the victim better off. And it’s costing enormous amounts of money."  The Globe editorialized in 2015.



A newsletter last fall described the barriers people who were wrongfully convicted face in receiving just compensation.  The New England Center for Investigative Reporting wrote in October and January about the delays and problems men like Fred Clay face.  The conference committee bill contains many of the remedies included in the bill I filed, such as expedited process and raising the cap to $1 million.



The omnibus bill includes my bill to prevent arrests for non-violent verbal behavior ("disturbing a public assembly") in school, disrupting the school to prison pipeline.  It requires memos of understanding between schools and police, and training of School Resource Officers.

This op ed by Jessica Lander summarizes the problem, as documented also by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the ACLU.



The bill changes the threshold for felony larceny from $250 to $1200.  Larceny under $1200 will still be subject to up to a year in jail, as opposed to felony larceny, which is subject to 5 years.  Defendants could still be arrested in cases over $250.  (My bill would have raised the threshold to $1500.)




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Copyright © 2017 CTE Pat Jehlen

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David Sloane

Apr 16, 2018, 6:22:10 PM4/16/18
to, Jim Vetter, CSfC Criminal Justice Reform,, Richard Marcus, Caroline Bays
Thanks Fred - you're quite right. Richard and Caroline did a bunch of great work on criminal justice reform, with a lot of other folks playing supporting roles along the way.

Though it's far from perfect, getting this legislation passed and signed was a great accomplishment.



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Richard Marcus

Apr 16, 2018, 6:42:51 PM4/16/18
to David Sloane,, Jim Vetter, CSfC Criminal Justice Reform,, Caroline Bays
Thanks All,

It was a privilege to have contributed. I must say that Caroline, in particular, had a great influence on Senator Brownsberger regarding solitary. I'm not sure it would have been included without her role.

Unfortunately, I was so disappointed in Setti Warren doubling down yesterday on his statement that he would have vetoed the bill. Imagine if he's the nominee how the Republicans will be able to steal CJR from the Progressives and the Dems, with a Dem candidate to the right of Baker on CJR.  Goes to show he doesn't know what's in the bill and that he doesn't understand the legislative process. Imagine how the 37 Senators and the 144 House members who voted for the bill will feel able working with a Governor who just vetoed their landmark legislation.   1000s of lives continue suffer because of "his principles".

Admittedly still venting,

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Richard Marcus

RE/MAX Destiny
907 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
(O)617-576-3800 x2257

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