Some Stats on Criminal Justice

As the conversation about criminal justice reform heats up, some numbers are helpful for putting things in perspective. As I share in this post, Massachusetts has the third lowest incarceration rate among the 50 states–but we lock up 4 to 5 times as many people as we did 40 years ago. I want to share more on this critical issue, and to hear from you, at my upcoming community discussions.

Mandatory Sentences Disproportionately Impact Minorities.

Illegal drug use spreads through all racial and ethnic groups and whites are the group most commonly convicted of possession (70.9% in Fiscal 2013). The racial disproportionality at the mandatory minimum level is therefore troubling, especially because of the unique role of prosecutorial discretion in bringing and enforcing mandatory minimum charges.

The average sentence impact of repealing mandatories is likely to be modest.

In testimony before the Judiciary Committee in on June 9, 2015, witnesses offered differing predictions of the likely impact of repealing mandatories. We are left with irreducible uncertainty as to the expected change in sentence levels. It seems certain that some particular cases will be resolved differently, but hard to imagine that average sentence levels will completely collapse.