Final Criminal Justice Package Released

Update: April 13 — the bill is law!

The Governor signed the bill today, Friday, April 13. Perhaps that is a good luck omen!

View the signing ceremony speeches here.

Package summary and explainers here.

After four months of negotiations, the conference committee between the House and Senate reached final agreement on a criminal justice reform package. Below is my statement at our press conference and further below is an outline of the bill.

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.

And it is about better protecting the public from drugs and violence.

We are profoundly grateful to and respectful of the men and women who labor in the trenches every day to protect us from crime and to administer justice – the police officers, the prosecutors, the judges, the probation officers, the correctional officers, the parole officers and the lawyers. And we know their work is essential to the preservation of civil society.

At the same time, we are deeply concerned about high incarceration rates in commwunities of poverty and color and we understand that the criminal justice system has become just too hard for people to navigate. It mires people in cycles of frustration from which they cannot escape.

Most issues in criminal justice involve hard judgment calls and many are deeply controversial. They are the kind of difficult issues that many seek to avoid. So, I’m very grateful for the leadership of former Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Speaker Bob Deleo for bringing us to the threshold of this conversation. I am also grateful to Senate President Chandler for sustaining our momentum.

Last fall, both branches produced and approved comprehensive criminal justice packages that examined the system from front to back. The bills each branch produced differed from each other in approach and in hundreds of details. We have spent the last four months sorting through all the pieces.

We considered and discussed each piece individually and we hope we have succeeded in re-assembling a balanced bill, each piece of which actually works. We hope and believe that the final bill is really a better bill than either branch started with.

To the extent we have been successful, it reflects the fact that we have listened to each other, we have respected each other and we have not been afraid to accept each other’s thoughts and feelings. I will remain forever grateful to all the five of other people who sat at that table for hours on end.

I am especially grateful to my co-chair Claire Cronin whose abiding sense of fairness is what kept this conversation moving and brought it to a successful conclusion. I am also especially grateful to the staff supporting the committee members. We started as several teams, but we finished as one team.

See package summary here.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

72 replies on “Final Criminal Justice Package Released”

  1. Barring a year’s study to acquire appropriate knowledge to send an educated response, I’m writing to ask that minds remain open to data resulting from implementation of the changes. I hope the money saved by shorter prison terms, no prison terms, reduced fines etc. will be directed to the needs which are common causes of eventual criminal activity. People will be released from prison and court often with the same deprivation and lack of structure and resources they had before their involvement with the criminal justice system. Schools, being the one constant in childrens’ involvement with societal resources, must have the funds and staff to discern and address problematic behavior. Criminal records should never be expunged or sealed. Do those records not represent crimes against the state? Individuals with those records have voices and can make their own cases for consideration by interested parties. To me, such continual tuning of the law represents the best in society.

    1. Thank you, Lorraine.

      I agree with you that we need to give people the structure and resources that they need to avoid criminality. I also agrees are the key channel for that.

      As to sealing/expungement, I think there is a role for it. It is true that history is what it is, but is also true that people tend to overreact to criminal history and fail to appreciate that people can grow and change.

  2. It’s about time that changes are being made to the old and out dated criminal justice system. My question is and I’m sorry if I missed it…when are these changes going into effect?

  3. And another criminal on parole kills a police officer. Ya maybe if we are nice to them and release them they will not commit anymore crimes??????????
    When will this end

    1. The death of the officer is an unspeakable tragedy.

      We need to look carefully at what actually happened in the case.

      But for sure, every day 1000s of people come through the system who are not killers and we need to bring back them into society.

  4. When are we going to hold the judges accountable for their actions? Right now they are political hacks that are untouchable. They disregard mandatory minimums and constantly allow repeat violent offenders off with a slap on the wrist. The judge that allowed Thomas Latanowich walk the streets has blood on his hands. He had over 100 items on his BOP and attempted to stab someone to death in 2016. In other parts of the country judges are elected officials and are held accountable. Sadly this is not the case in Massachusetts. They are simply untouchable

  5. Thank you Senator Brownsberger for your relentless pursuit and endless work on criminal reform. Your dedication and tieless efforts to this major piece of legislation makes Massachusetts shine when it comes to common sense reform, compassion and justice. I am so thankful for your presence in our Senate.

    With gratitude,
    Debbie Deagle

  6. WE are all gratefull for the reforms that Gov. Baker has signed. They will help people if they are enacted. Now we have to make that happen. As for the officer who was killed, it is a great loss. However, I would wait until the facts come out because I have already read that many of the accused’s arrests ended in dismissals and obviously his behavior was not typical. I would like to see all of the facts. For now, I would like to promote the DOC to help those who need it to return to society. This will make us all better off.

  7. This is a giant leap in the right direction for criminal justice reform. Thanks to Senator Brownsberger and the rest of our legislature for their extensive effort to do something positive for the state of Massachusetts.

  8. Monica James, I enjoyed the collaborations that were happening amongst all interested stakeholders that brought about this piece of comprehensive legislation that is more progressive than any other at current time. My goals and prayers is that this piece of progressive legislation from the innovative state of MA. will serve as a model around the world aiming forward social reform.

    Onward..

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