In the Media
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.
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.
Lawmakers are gearing up to get back to work on Beacon Hill. Passing a sweeping health care reform bill and updating the states criminal justice policies are two top priorities for lawmakers this year.
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.”
The top law enforcement official on Cape Cod favors the House version of the criminal justice reform bill on Beacon Hill.
The Massachusetts House passed a bill Monday aimed at reducing recidivism, the precursor to debating a more expansive and controversial criminal justice overhaul.
On the same day as the Massachusetts Senate debated a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants laid out his own suggestions for reform.
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.
The comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation up for debate this week in the Senate is a noteworthy achievement in every respect but one–its failure to take on the delicate subject of reinvestment.
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.
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.
Lawmakers returned to Beacon Hill this week, following an August recess, with a full agenda ahead of them and facing criticism that they’ve done little work so far this legislative session.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Following the suicide of former New England Patriot player Aaron Hernandez, who was serving a life sentence for murder at the state’s maximum security prison in Shirley, Gov. Charlie Baker said he has faith in his Department of Correction commissioner.
The top officials in all three branches of Massachusetts government came together on Tuesday to release the findings of a yearlong review of the state’s criminal justice system.
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.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released a report outlining ways in which Massachusetts can improve public safety, avoid almost $10 million in projected corrections costs by 2023 and accelerate further reduction of its incarcerated population.
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.
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.
The state has released new recommendations on how to improve public safety and reduce the rates in which released inmates relapse into criminal behavior.
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.
State leaders unveiled a long-awaited criminal justice reform report on Tuesday, with recommendations aimed at reducing the revolving door at many of Massachusetts’ jails and prisons.
My ongoing top priority as Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee is criminal justice reform.
Gov. Charlie Baker has filed legislation designed to help reduce the number of former inmates who wind up back behind bars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The imprisonment rate of residents of Boston’s communities of color–areas of Dorchester and Roxbury–are consistently double and triple the city average, according to a recently released Boston Foundation report titled “The Geography of Incarceration.”
Health care costs, education, criminal justice reform, and the apartment-sharing service Airbnb will all be on the Senate agenda when the new session begins in January, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said Thursday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Leaders of all three branches of state government huddled for over two hours in Gov. Charlie Baker’s office recently to review research being conducted by an outside non-profit into potential criminal justice reforms that could help reduce incarceration rates and recidivism in Massachusetts.
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.
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.
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.
At county jails across Massachusetts, each inmate released at the end of a sentence stands a 50-50 chance of returning to jail with a new sentence. In Hampden County, the odds are one in three.
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.
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.
Prisoners who are released to the community without any supervision in Massachusetts reoffend at higher rates than those who are released with supervision. Yet, some of the most dangerous criminals are often the ones released without supervision, according to information released recently by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
From the moment inmates are incarcerated in the Hampden County Correctional Center system, the Sheriff’s Department is preparing them to get out — and stay out.
Employment is key.
The analysis by The CSG Justice Center found that motor-vehicle and property offenses accounted for 47 percent of all sentences to county houses of corrections in 2013, the most recent year for which figures were available.
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 […]
A small group of individuals accounts for a large percentage of criminal offenses in Massachusetts, and these people keep re-offending, according to a new study.
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.
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.
Repeat offenders make up more than two-thirds of defendants committed to state and county prisons in Massachusetts each year. Re-incarcerating individuals whom we failed to “correct” when they were previously in the custody of our corrections system costs taxpayers nearly half a billion dollars annually.
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.
The rate of incarceration in Massachusetts is down, but by how much varies widely depending on which county of the state you’re looking at. That was one of the initial findings of an independent review of the state’s criminal justice system commissioned by Gov. Charlie Baker.
The past 10 years in Massachusetts have seen decreases in total crime, criminal case filings and convictions, researchers told a working group seeking avenues to reform the state’s criminal justice system.
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.
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.
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.
The multi-branch task force’s Steering Committee, consisting of Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, House Speaker Robert Deleo and Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants, will provide guidance, oversight and strategic direction in the development of policy options throughout the review process.
“This group of distinguished individuals with backgrounds in criminal justice and law enforcement will serve the Commonwealth well in our endeavor with the Council of State Governments to further reform and improve the judicial process, and reduce recidivism and incarceration rates,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a prepared statement.
With an eye toward trimming prison and jail populations and reducing recidivism, the top officials in Massachusetts government are asking for an independent review of the state’s criminal justice system.