Massachusetts Media Coverage

In the Media

Mass. Legislature Sends Baker Sweeping Criminal Justice Bill

The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed the most sweeping reforms to the state’s criminal justice system in decades, a package aimed at paring the number of people caught up in the courts, helping those who have served their time stay out of jail, and giving young offenders more leeway to avoid the system altogether.

Mass. Bishops Reaffirm Support for Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

In a letter sent to the Members of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Conference Committee, Massachusetts Catholic bishops applauded the committee’s efforts in crafting criminal reform legislation, and reiterated items that they hope will be included in the legislation.

New Unit at Billerica Jail Will Focus on Young Offenders

Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian will open a new unit specially designed for young adult offenders, ages 18 to 24, at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction in February with an initial focus on those from Merrimack Valley communities. Existing space at the Billerica jail will be repurposed to operate the unit because the Council of State Governments Justice Center found young inmates released from Massachusetts correctional facilities have higher recidivism rates than older offenders. “The approach we’ve taken historically with this population is not working,” said Koutoujian. “New approaches — based on scientific research and proven practices — are required for us to break the cycle of incarceration these young adults find themselves trapped in.”

Before the Massachusetts Legislature Breaks This Fall, What Needs to Get Done?

On Nov. 15, the Massachusetts Legislature will go on break until January. During that time, the only bills likely to be passed are non-controversial items that do not face opposition.

Lawmakers have some major bills still pending as they approach the recess.

Here’s a look at what they are.

Criminal Justice Reform Makes Its Way Through Massachusetts Legislature

Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Legislature commissioned the Council of State Governments to issue a report on the state’s criminal justice system in 2015. In March of this year, it found Massachusetts spends the most on young adults in its jails, and has the highest re-arrest rates.

Mass. Senate Panel Gets a Look at Justice Reform Bill

Senate members of the Judiciary Committee on Friday advanced a 114-page criminal justice bill that would phase out the indigent counsel fee, require regular reviews to determine whether a prisoner should stay in solitary confinement, and allow people to effectively wipe old charges from a national database.

DeLeo, key Dems Plan Busy “Very Busy Fall”

Though formal business has paused and lawmakers seldom make the trip into the State House during the August break, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said House members are hard at work preparing for what he anticipates to be a busy fall.

From the Inside Out: Adjusting to Life Without Bars

Two thirds of those sentenced to state and county prison had been incarcerated before, according to a 2016 policy brief on recidivism rates by the public policy research group MassINC. When prisoners are released, they are often still battling addiction, dealing with mental health issues and have a weak support system. At the point of re-entry, the statewide issues of recidivism, drug addiction and homelessness are one. When the former inmate hits the street, data shows they have just under a 50-percent chance of going back within three years.

19-Year-Olds Don’t Belong in Adult Prisons

Governor Baker introduced a criminal justice bill in February to great fanfare. Designed to give prisoners incarcerated on mandatory minimum sentences access to good-time credit to hasten their release and to provide reentry programming, it received wide bipartisan support — as it should. The justification was clear. “Reducing recidivism,” Baker said, was the bill’s focus. The people of Massachusetts benefit “when more individuals exit the system as law abiding and productive members of the society.”

Mass. Voters Strongly Back Criminal Justice Reform

Massachusetts residents strongly support reform of the state’s criminal justice system, including elimination of mandatory minimum sentences and a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and education programs than incarceration, according to a new poll.

Legislation Aims for More Early Release Chances

Prisoners would have greater opportunities for early release, even if they received a mandatory minimum sentence, under legislation resulting from the cooperation between all three branches of government on criminal-justice reform.

Mass. Officials Unveil Plan to Prevent People From Returning to Jail

Top Massachusetts officials from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches unveiled a plan Tuesday aimed at reducing the number of prisoners who are released and then return to jail or prison.

But the bipartisan package, a version of which is likely to become law, turned up the heat on a long-simmering debate over where to draw the line between protecting public safety and helping fewer people end up behind bars.

Report Seeks Criminal Justice Reform In Massachusetts

Massachusetts has the second-lowest per-capita incarceration rate in the nation, but more than half of the people leaving houses of correction and state prisons end up back in court at some point.

State Leaders Unveil Bill Aimed at Cutting Recidivism

State leaders unveiled long-awaited legislation Tuesday aimed at reducing recidivism rates in the criminal justice system. But whether the bill tackles the most pressing issue facing the system or simply marks a good first step in what should be a more sweeping reform process depends on which leader is speaking.

Op-Ed: Think Outside Box to Deal With Young Adult Criminals

Massachusetts has long been recognized as a leader in juvenile justice reform for youth who commit crimes prior to age 18. By contrast, our state’s record with “emerging adults” ages 18 to 24 who are handled in our adult criminal justice system is less exemplary. As law enforcement officials, we witness them being failed by the system every day, staying in jail the longest and returning the most quickly.

A Broader Vision

Over the last decade, as the criminal justice reform movement grew in strength and many states rolled back policies tied to mass incarceration, Massachusetts leaders made only minor changes to its criminal justice system. Our laws weren’t as draconian as other states’, they said, and our incarceration rate isn’t as large.

Women’s Jail Proposal on Hold

The idea of building a new jail for women in Essex County came up often on the campaign trail for sheriff last fall, and again in Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger’s inauguration speech this month.

Rosenberg Outlines Ambitious Two-Year Agenda

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg on Wednesday embarked on his second term as the top Democrat in the upper chamber, outlining an ambitious, if challenging, agenda for the coming two years that could bump up against the priorities of a more moderate and business-friendly House and a governor focused on controlling growth in government.

11 Issues to Watch in the 2017-2018 Legislative Session

Smaller prison populations and lower costs, better re-entry programs and services, and reduced recidivism rates are among the goals of criminal justice reform advocates who have seen their policy proposals wither in past sessions. Legislative leaders told Gov. Deval Patrick in 2012 that they would revisit criminal justice and sentencing reforms in the 2013-2014 session, but they didn’t.

Pull Up One More Chair For Youth

If you want to learn about ways to save our environment, you’d convene a group of scientists. If you want to assess ways to improve our health care systems, you’d convene a group of health care providers. Why is it that when we tackle major issues that directly affect youth, we often miss the opportunity to convene young people?

A Tipping Point for Criminal Justice Reform in Massachusetts

Over the years, piles of reform proposals on an array of issues have been decided by statistical analyses that could be colored dozens of different ways. But when statistics show that in some parts of Boston, residents from nearly every other home on some streets are ending up in jail, the need for wholesale change is irrefutable.

Mapping Incarceration in Boston

Large swaths of mostly minority Boston neighborhoods are so heavily affected by the criminal justice system that nearly every street has a resident who has spent time in jail, a concentration of incarceration that is costing millions of dollars and threatening the social fabric of neighborhoods already struggling with high rates of poverty and other challenges.

Checking the Pulse on Criminal Justice Reform in Massachusetts

From police contact to reentry, criminologists have demonstrated evidence-based policy and practice to lessen recidivism, reduce racial disparities, save taxpayers unnecessary cost, and ameliorate disparate impact on high incarceration rate communities. Data uncovered through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative process are revealing where such change is required in Massachusetts.

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Prioritizes Racial Disparities in Massachusetts

Data from the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission shows that the racial and ethnic disparity in the rates of imprisonment in Massachusetts is significantly greater than it is nationwide. To learn the reasons for this disparity, the Chief Justice has asked Dean Martha Minow of Harvard Law School to establish an independent research team to examine the issue.

Gants Launches Study of Racial Disparities in Incarceration

The state must confront racial disparities in imprisonment rates and move to “reimagine” a flawed criminal justice system to focus less on incarceration and more on lowering recidivism, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants said on Thursday.

What’s the Right Thing to Do with an 18-Year-Old Caught with a Gun?

DIANE MCMANUS SAYS her youngest child, Timothy, is “no street kid.” He was “raised in the church,” she says, a respectful son who minded the rules she set down, even as a teenager growing up in a rough patch of Dorchester off Blue Hill Avenue. But while Diane McManus was out of town in February 2014, visiting an older daughter who was undergoing surgery in South Carolina, Tim defied her orders to be home by 11 p.m. He was stopped by police a block from their home just after 1 a.m. on a Saturday morning and arrested when they found a loaded handgun in his jacket.

Massachusetts Criminal Justice Panel Working Toward Year-End Policy Debate

After months studying recidivism trends, drivers of incarceration and other elements of criminal justice in Massachusetts, researchers from The Council of State Governments Justice Center plan to gather with a 25-member working group in December to go over final policy recommendations.

Guest Commentary: Sen. Creem Argues Juvenile Justice Reform is key to Improving Future Outcomes

Flip through the pages of most newspapers — or, more likely, click through their digital versions — and you will be hard-pressed not to come across an argument advocating for criminal justice reform. This topic is “trending” across both blue and red states, and with good reason. I have long argued that reframing how we view criminal justice offers opportunities to reduce recidivism, enhance public safety, and increase overall equity and fairness. By focusing on the most effective use of resources, criminal justice reform can also provide a real opportunity for financial savings to the state.

New Data Provide Important Insights on Young Adult Justice in Massachusetts

The Council of State Governments Justice Center reinvestment team recently convened the working group for a third meeting. Their presentation focused on recidivism with particular attention to pretrial decision-making, incarcerated populations, and programming within houses of correction. The CSG also provided an addendum with additional slides.

Officials Eye Data Tool to Gauge Pretrial Detainee Risks

After reviewing data on pretrial detainees held in three county jails, members of a state criminal justice working group said they could see benefits to adopting a data-based pretrial risk assessment tool, although barriers exist to doing so in Massachusetts.

Justice-system review focused on stopping ‘revolving door’

The Lowell Sun By Katie Lannan BOSTON — People who had been convicted of prior offenses accounted for nearly three quarters of new convictions in Massachusetts in a single year, according to a data analysis presented Tuesday to a working […]

Report: Recidivism Remains a Criminal Justice Challenge

People with prior involvement in the Massachusetts criminal justice system account for three out of every four new convictions. That’s one finding of a panel set up to study the problem of recidivism in the state.

Report: Recidivism remains a criminal justice challenge

Individuals with prior involvement in the state’s criminal justice system account for three out of every four new convictions.

That’s one finding of a panel set up to study the problem of recidivism in Massachusetts.

Two in Five Leave Mass. Prisons Unsupervised, Review Says

Two in five people released from prison in Massachusetts return to the community without the supervision of a probation or parole officer, according to a review of the state’s criminal justice system released by the nonpartisan Council on State Governments Tuesday.

Opinion: Criminal Justice Reform Must Include Civil Legal Assistance

Civil legal assistance is necessary to help avoid the stigma associated with having a criminal record, which can be devastating to people trying to rebuild their lives after a period of incarceration; it’s well known that having a criminal record is a serious obstacle to employment.

Editorial: Massachusetts Should Raise Felony Theft Threshold

If you steal a $400 iPhone in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, or Rhode Island, you’re guilty of petty theft, a misdemeanor punishable by not more than one year in jail. But if you steal that same iPhone in Massachusetts, you’re guilty of grand larceny—a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. Why is Massachusetts so much stricter? It is because the state’s lawmakers haven’t gotten around to updating the felony theft threshold since 1987, when the legislature raised it from $100 to $250.

DAs: Justice Focus Should Be on Recidivism

While activists and some lawmakers are advocating for criminal justice reforms aimed in part at reducing the number of people incarcerated, seven of the state’s district attorneys pushed back on Wednesday with a call to shift the focus.