Senate Criminal Justice Reform Package

Warning: This post is based on superseded information.

View the final conference package here.

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary reported out to the Senate today a broad criminal justice reform package.   The bill has 240 sections and runs to 115 pages.

While sometimes incarceration is necessary, it is almost always harmful.  We need to do everything we can to avoid unnecessary incarceration, to promote healing within prisons and during the re-entry process and to make it easier for people to get back on their feet. This bill speaks to all those goals.  At the same time it supports law enforcement in addressing the most serious crimes.

At the front end of the system, the bill seeks to cut the flow in the “school to prison pipeline” by reducing the use of arrest as a tool of school discipline.  It decriminalizes “disturbing a school assembly.”  Of course, if a disorderly student won’t leave the premises or actually assaults someone, arrest remains available.

The bill also provides that offenders who have not reached the age of 19 will generally be treated as juveniles in the court system, shifting young people of high-school age out of the more punitive adult system.

The bill will make diversion to a program, as an alternative to the criminal process, more available for young adults and for people with addictions. The bill will also support the expansion of restorative justice approaches in appropriate cases.

It creates a framework to support a recent Supreme Judicial Court decision that will prevent people from being incarcerated solely due to their inability to afford bail.  Even brief incarcerations are very disruptive for people who have any life responsibilities. Detention should be reserved for those who really won’t come back to court or who pose a real danger to the public.

Low-level drug dealers are often people with addictions.  The bill repeals minimum mandatory sentences for all retail drug-dealing offenses (except for sales involving minors, which are surprisingly rare).

It repeals existing mandatories for the offense of trafficking over 18 grams of cocaine and the offense of trafficking over 35 grams of cocaine — under the bill, one would have to sell over 100 grams of cocaine to be subject to a mandatory minimum.  Perhaps reflecting a misapplication of enforcement resources, these lower weight cocaine mandatories still account for a high volume of incarceration.

The bill does not repeal mandatory minimums for opiate trafficking and, in fact, provides that trafficking in higher weights of the emerging, highly potent, synthetic opioids like fentanyl should be subject to the same mandatory minimums as the natural opiates heroin and morphine.

Net net, the mandatories that the bill leaves in place govern only 2% of the sentenced drug cases resulting in incarceration (14% of the sentenced-years of incarceration).  We know that roughly 2/3 of drug mandatories are dropped in plea bargaining, so the indirectly affected volume is greater by a factor of roughly three — perhaps 6% of the incarcerated drug cases would continue to be related to mandatories.

The bill introduces a new protection for children of people involved in the criminal justice system, requiring the court to make written findings of necessity before sentencing the primary caretaker of a child to incarceration.

The bill includes a new legal framework that should reduce substantially the use of “restrictive housing” (also known as solitary confinement) within prisons.  Prisoners who currently might face years of segregation for disciplinary breaches will get the programming that they need to calm down and the chance to show that they are ready to return to general population.

The bill would also create the possibility of release of medically incapacitated prisoners.

Finally, and of great importance, the bill includes a number of provisions to reduce the long-term entanglement of people with the criminal justice system — reducing drivers’ license suspensions for non-driving reasons, lowering fees for people involved in the criminal justice system, limiting the use of incarceration to collect fees and fines, and limiting the damage that criminal cases can do to prospects for employment and housing.

The bill will now go through vetting by the Senate Ways and Means Committee and likely hit the Senate Floor at some point in October.  If the Senate approves the bill after debate, the action will then shift to the House and ultimately to a conference process.  There is another moving piece — the bill generated by the Council of State Governments process which is mostly focused on reentry.  That bill was reported out today, but to the House side, and will likely move in parallel with the Senate bill.

Responses to comments, October 16, 6AM

Thanks to all who have weighed in here — I’ve read through all the comments. I’m really heartened by the overall strong support for reform. Will head into the final debate with all of these suggestions in mind. I’ve reopened the thread to further comment now, but I’m also happy to hear from folks directly at

Published by Will Brownsberger

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

179 replies on “Senate Criminal Justice Reform Package”

  1. It is all an improvement. I have worked with , and seen, the results of the old laws – not good. People often get the opposite of rehab. in prison as I know you are aware. Learn criminal behavior, more aggressive , have to go to a detox when the leave prison etc. Even (some) people that did bad stuff can get better with counseling and meds. Too many lives get wrecked, incl. the family as collateral damage. It’s a tough call, but some people do need to serve time, in my opinion. Life on streets is not rehab either. If help is available when removed from society, they may benefit. I have unfortunately met some who leave and commit crimes again. Some need to be out of the community, but there are models for this – e.g. Germany.

  2. Thanks Will. Very informative and laudatory. What are some of the downside sof this bill- it seems so positive.

  3. Many good provisions are here. Reforms need to be stronger on solitary as this is the modern era and better tools are available to handle violence in the prison. Also, more programming and education needs to be available as inmates wait years to get into a program. Some are illiterate and are waiting years to learn to read. More needs to be done to give them a chance to succeed.Most return to society so why not have them ready? Also more paroles need to be granted. This allows supervision upon release. Far too few paroles are being granted. This needs to change. But thank you for your work on this.

    1. The reforms on solitary are very strong — they are calculated to support very substantial changes in practice. It is reasonable to hope that requiring frequent reviews of placement will lead to many people being moved to less restrictive settings.

  4. One more huge injustice that needs
    to be remedied is that convicted felons
    and DEPRIVED OF THE RIGHT TO VOTE! This is an outrage; they are still citizens and their voices need to be heard and counted. Their experiences with the judicial system make their input valuable to improving our democracy.
    DEMOCRACY??? Can’t really call
    it that if women, blacks, the poor,
    and now the convicted or incarcerated
    are deprived of a say in how things
    are run.

  5. Hi Will, these all seem like perfectly reasonable, fact-based changes. It seems clear that “the war on drugs” has been lost and that it’s time to treat addiction as the public health problem is really is.

    It’s also clear that our prison systems do little to reform and simply act, as best, as warehouses for people with problems and at worst as a training ground where minor criminals can get acquainted with more serious criminals and learn from the pros. Knowledge they can apply when they are released.

    We incarcerate 700 people per 100K population. In Germany and the Netherlands, this is about 80 per 100K. A magnitude of scale fewer. Is America really 10 times more dangerous than Germany?

    We’re just not thinking this thing through here in the US.

    It sounds (from the summary) like this bill is a step in the right direction.

  6. I value your leadership on this bill. Looks like it addresses the major issues very well. A terrific accomplishment just to bring it to this stage. I have a few questions. Is there a danger that some schools will respond by creating their own quasi-police/judicial forces (if they believe that will be less able to deter students through arrests)? Is there a danger criminal conduct will skew more toward primary caregivers of children because they are perceived to be more exempt from incarceration? Will the inclusion in the juvenile system of older teens who commit serious crimes endanger the younger teens and children in the system?

    1. Good question, Will.

      The bill also includes language requiring that schools develop memoranda of understanding governing use of police. I think it will push in the right direction.

      Re incentives created by the primary caretaker concept, yes . . . this is a concern. A parallel concern would be that people who are in trouble might go to great lengths to become primary caretakers and this could create conflicts between parents. We will need to work through these concerns as the process continues.

      Re the juvenile system, it will be important to segregate older youths from younger kids in programming and this creates a cost factor to the proposal.

  7. Excellent and more than I ever could have hoped. The incarceration of humans has become big business. My family each has a penpal from Pink and Black, and we are made more human by our participation. One of the familie’s penpals just challenged the prison rules banning “books that incite riots” they were just Criminal justice books. Prisoners, in almost all, if not all, states have unlimited access to racist Nazi literature and anything about religion. Religious books often don’t count toward the total books allowed in a cell; usually 4, but my lifer can only have 3.
    The battle was won for the criminal justice books, but we must battle on.
    Claire DeVore and the Weicks.

  8. It appears that a lot of welcome reforms are reflected in this bill. I hope that it can travel through the process and emerge intact. It’s thoughtful reflection on research of what really works and doesn’t is in stark contract to what is going on in Washington. Every day I am thankful for living in Massachusetts. Thank you so much for your work!

  9. Are there provisions for job training, education, mental health counseling while incarcerated not just in reentry circumstances?
    Right direction!

  10. Where are the provisions for the victims of crimes? This bill only address criminals and not the harm they do.
    Why not sell drugs and only keep a small amount on a person at one time. How many times can a criminal do this?

    1. There are a number of points in this bill where the victim perspective is heard. Notably on the issue of collecting restitution — we’ve added a whole new civil collection mechanism. The restorative justice process is also very victim centered.

      We have met with victim’s advocates, taken a number of their suggestions, and we will continue to listen for improvements we can make.

  11. Thanks for posting, Will. I read through your summary and the summary link you included, and am pleased to see that so many needed criminal justice reforms are addressed in this bill. I’m hopeful the bill will pass in the House & Senate relatively intact, as many of these reforms are long overdue & will help create more ‘justice for all.’

  12. Wonderful additions to help scale back our mass incarceration at least on the state level. I don’t know if you talked about this in a early update but will you also think about putting additional money in the public defenders? Public defenders are one of the best ways to lower incarceration but sadly because of the small funds public defenders hardly ever get the right amount of time needed to understand the court case which leads to poor legal advice.

  13. We definitely need more diversion programs instead of criminal process for first time offenders…currently prosecutors are not using this legal tool at all.

    1. I totally agree. They need to put all their money into more long term residential Rehabilitation programs and Facilities rather than overcrowding the prisons with first time offenders, including individuals with addictions and psychological. They need to improve and monitor already existing programs and any newly established.

  14. David,
    We already have significant ways to protect victims, support them, and remunerate them. I know none of that is enough, but those laws are in place.
    It may feel that this only addresses those who have committed crimes; but our point (if I may) is about the inequality of punishment and the inherent bias.
    Sometimes it helps to think about the history of bias toward Italians, Catholics, etc. And the injustice of lacking good legal representation. It’s more about the way our legal system has moved on from proof of crime, to imprisoning for say, pot, which we legalized.
    No one wants to take away victim’s rights or in anyway lessen those tragedies. But as several have said, treatment and education are key issues.
    My brother died of drugs and alcohol. Here in Massachusetts we had a detox on Beacon Street in Somerville, one where the Metropolitan hospital was in Waltham. They’re gone, and were when he died.

  15. I believe young men and women in school including through college should be included in the age of responsibility guidelines. There is much stress and pressure even in and during college. They are transitioning from adolescence to adults which is a difficult adjustment in itself. Environmental,social,economic, family and academic issues all play into the mind thinking, actions and reactions of issues faced by many of these students especially while in college. The Government should take into consideration all of these unthought out concerns. There is much pressure in the world today and it has affected students of all ages from high school through college. It is unfair to distinguish age from the mental attitudes and distractions young people I subjected to. I think these individuals should all be included in the ages of responsibility guidelines.

    1. Yes, there are some that would like to see us take the age of criminal majority all the way to 21. That is a huge resource shift though. This bill moves to 19, which is a big deal, and we’ll see how that goes. We’ll be the only state in the country at 19. Most of the others are at 18 as we are now and a few are at younger ages.

  16. Thank you for your hard work in this area. These changes are very important. Studies show we are all safer when the criminal justice system is trusted by citizens to be fair and reasonable. We want it to be effective at keeping our communities safe while offering those who have transgressed the law an opportunity to not just serve time, but get the tools they clearly need for a ‘course correction’.

  17. Thank you, Will, for making this such a high priority. What this work does for families and for those who live in our poorest neighborhoods and families goes without saying but the other huge benefit to me seems to be about efficiencies gained in the business of incarceration. A family member of ours recently got out and can’t stop talking about the private companies that are poised to take over management of the prisons. While it is difficult for me to parse out the pros and cons (and the reality) of such privitizations, that sounds like an interesting issue. Also, the cost savings of addressing our high incarceration rates is something that should appeal to everyone so is probably worth consistent messaging when you discuss these reforms.

    1. For me, it’s not about savings. I’d actually like to see us spend much more per prisoner to provide them a safer more educational environment. More resources would also make the correctional officer job safer and less stressful.

      1. I agree! Let’s provide our prisoners with educational opportunities that will give them the skills necessary for a smoother transition back into the community and what it takes to remain a contributing member.

  18. Does Massachussets have privately run prisons? If so can we make them illegal? Removing the profitability of imprisoning people will go a long way towards keeping folks out of jail.

    Decriminalizing all drugs would also help, making the punishment for drug use rehab instead of jail.

    1. Thanks, Concerned.

      We actually don’t have any privately run prisons. We do have a decentralized system of county correctional facilities run by Sheriffs, which, in some ways, resemble private non-profits in their financial dynamics.

      The county facilities house about half of our prisoners. The rest are in the state Department of Corrections.

    2. I worked for a year for the Department of Correction and emerged from that experience a big fan of privatized prisons. At least when I was there the Correction Officers Union ran everything and the sole issue driving decisions was the convenience of the officers. For instance, I taught school in a two story building and we couldn’t use the second floor (during the night) because the officer taking attendance did not want to climb any stairs. Just one example among many.


  19. What is the best way to advocate for passage of this legislation in the senate since there is no bill number? In the house?

  20. Thanks for this helpful summary and for getting this out of committee now. I hope the Senate votes on this soon and that the House doesn’t weaken these reforms. Likewise I hope the Governor’s bill being considered now by the House makes it through the Senate this fall.

    I would like to see stronger changes such as a higher felony larceny threshold, the removal of more mandatory minimum sentences so judges can decide based on sentencing guidelines and the particulars of a case, and a mechanism to spread restorative justice principles through the system but am glad this is a solid comprehensive bill.

  21. Dear Senator Brownsberger: Regarding the repeal of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders: I contend that trafficking should not kick in until at least 200 grams of cocaine and heroin – if not 500 grams.

    Despite declines in the prison population and the number of persons sentenced under drug statutes over the past decade and “reforms” in 2012 that reduced mandatory sentences, the continued reliance of Massachusetts on mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses remains ineffective, unfair, overly severe and racially discriminatory. Also, mandatory minimum sentences negatively affect large numbers of individuals and their families.
    ++Numbers affected: On January 1, 2015 1,371 offenders incarcerated in the DOC were serving for a governing drug offense ; 966 were serving a mandatory minimum sentence. The number of Superior Court drug mandatory incarcerations in FY2013 was 398. In FY2015, 455 drug cases were disposed on mandatory charges.

    ++Overly severe: Massachusetts law uses the verb “traffick” to refer to sale of larger quantities, suggestive of wholesaling. [But], the Massachusetts mandatory minimum sentences are triggered at lower weights than the corresponding mandatory minimums under federal law, which do not kick until the 500 gram level for powder cocaine or the 100 gram level for heroin. At those levels, the federal mandatory minimum is only 5 years — less severe than the state penalty.

    ++Ineffective: The vast majority of offenders serving mandatory minimum sentences were distributors or low level traffickers: 765 or 79%. Trafficking at level 4 represented less than 5% of total mandatory population

    ++Racial and ethnic disparity: The disproportionate impact of drug charges on minorities and the risk of arbitrary application make repeal of Mandatory Minimums [very] important, according to Senator Brownsberger and Chief Justice Gants. In 2013, the latest year available from the Sentencing Commission, persons of color represented 44% of persons convicted of all drug offenses; they represented 75% of those sentenced under mandatory minimums.

    ++Unfair leverage: A recent analysis of Superior Court cases from 2015 by the Sentencing Commission highlights the fact that mandatory minimum drug charges are often dropped in a plea bargain. In fact, only 26% of mandatory minimum drug charges resulted in a conviction as charged — 40% were dropped and 31% were replaced by a lesser-included offense (for example, a trafficking charge could be resolved as a straight distribution charge).

  22. Thank you for all the hard work you and others have put into this bill!

    I hope it will survive the legislative journey intact. It would make such a huge difference!

  23. Thanks as always Will for your work on these issues.

    My question is whether there will be funds allocated for diversion and re-entry programs as part of the bill.

    When we deinstitutionalized the mentally ill they did not provide for enough funds for programs and we ended up with the mentally ill people on the street and homeless.

  24. This sounds very promising. I am especially interested in reducing the amount of time in solitary confinement. I would like to see a specific limit put on this for our state which in my opinion should be 3 months.

  25. Thank you Mr. Brownsberger, for your summary, and support, of this bill.

    I support all of its provisions, and also agree with several of the respondents below, among them Josh Beardsley, Colleen Kirby, and Concerned Citizen.

    I agree with you that we need better educational opportunities for inmates, and also very much abhor the racial injustices that cause so many more people of color to be incarcerated, often for minor offenses – such as having small amounts of drugs in their possession. I am glad the sentencing around this is being addressed in this bill.

    And for these people/those with addictions, where minor amounts of drugs are involved, I fully support the idea of rehabilitation over incarceration. It is very encouraging to see that some towns are now carrying out this policy.

    We do need to see the end of the “school to prison” pipeleine, the incarceration of primary parents for lesser offenses, and the difficulties put on ex-prisoners to return to a normal life after incarceration. Thanks for your support of these very needed reforms, as well as other important reforms,in this bill.

  26. Your thoughtful, comprehensive bill covers many of the the issues needing change in the MA criminal justice system. I thank you.
    Can the bill add a way to obtain money to provide more restorative justice programs, non violent communication instruction and for more basic education programs (K-12) while inmates are doing time?

    1. Agree very strongly that we need to spend more money on these issues, but this bill doesn’t (and can’t) do money. That will has to happen in the budget. Hope we can make more progress then.

  27. This is truly a wonderful document. It is a big relief to see so many of the important/key issues included here. It is significant that this document talks about healing rather than using the rhetoric of punishment. I am gratified that this bill is willing to state the imprisonment does ‘harm’ – even if someone needs to be incarcerated. This is very true. We will have to spend enormous social funds just to heal the damage done during incarceration. For young people, there is the ‘arrested development’ – they miss out on the skills they need to be developing during their late teens or twenties – such critical parts of their adult development. The damage to inmates families is devastating. I also aware of the hostile environment in open social areas of the prison. We can avoid many devastating social consequences of incarceration by adopting this bill.

  28. This is a huge step forward, Sen. Brownsberger. The philosophical shift (and shift in dollars) from punishment to investment must be made if we’re going to permanently change the cycle of incarceration. MA can be a leader in this field and show a significant change in outcomes based on reformed policies. Thanks for your leadership.

  29. Raising the age for juveniles to 19 is helpful, although we all realize that the brain does not fully mature until 25. Lawmakers have even proved this when billing young adults for car insurance rates, the rates don’t go down til they reach 25. In order to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, an individual has to be 21. This should also be the case for juveniles when it comes to incarceration, especially when it is the individual’s first time offense. The individual prior to 21 is still going through maturation process, and decision making is sometimes compromised, especially if there were devastating circumstances and experiences prior to the crime. I speak especially for the juveniles over age of 19 who have just a one time offense.

  30. I totally endorse all these elements of criminal justice reform! They are humane, long overdue, and will save lives and money. We spend too much time on retribution, and not enough on human restoration.

  31. We strongly support this important bill. We know that punishment doesn’t work. This bill offers excellent solutions to major problems with our criminal justice system.

    One suggestion: Add support for restorative justice work, which seems to be highly effective.

    Thank you for your leadership on this critical issue.

  32. This bill corrects practices that harm young people in our community. I particularly reducing the penalty and stigma of juvenile offenses and drug possession offenses, which can economically handicap a person for life.

  33. Senator Brownsberger, Thank you for your leadership on comprehensive criminal justice reform. I’m especially happy to see so many important provisions included in addition to the narrow CSG recommendations.

  34. Thank you Senator Brownsberger. It is encouraging to see this amount of movement toward real criminal justice reform.

  35. Hi Senator Brownsberger my name is Bruce Dyer and I am a member of the Arlington Street Church and member of the Social Action Committee there as well as a member of you UU Mass action. I received an email from Lori Kenschaft regarding your efforts in forming this bill. I met you about 3 years ago and testified before the joint committee on the Judiciary. I was the second to last and you may remember I presented myself as giving a unique perspective. I totally support the bill and feel it is a great start. As you are well aware many more issues are yet to be addressed. I am I will contact my legislators both Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and Representative Dan Hunt and express my complete and utter support both for your efforts and the bill itself. If you are able please keep me updated on developments as they happen and if there is anything, ANYTHING I personally can do to Aid your efforts please let me know.

  36. The changes are good, as far as they go. I’d like to see ALL drug related (trafficking) mandatories eliminated.

    I’m opposed to all life sentences for juvenile offenders.

    Please eliminate all fees imposed on indigent criminal defendants, and provide a generous definition of indigent. Fees should only be imposed on those clearly able to pay. We don’t want to incarcerate people for being poor or of limited means.

    RMV should not be used as a justice enforcement tool.

    All forfeitures should go to the general fund, not the Police and DAs.

  37. Thank you for the work you’ve done for this vital issue. Criminal justice reform is one of the primary necessities of our time and I appreciate the importance you’ve placed on it.

  38. Senator Brownsberger – thank you so much for working to expand the reforms originally offered by CSG into this bill with substantial changes to Massachusetts’ outdated criminal legal system. The perspective you offer in the second paragraph of this summary reflects a true public health perspective.

    As a public health professional working in Massachusetts to change our system to be more humane and to decrease inequities, I particularly support the section of the bill that increases sentencing reform for people who are parents of dependent children.

    Thank you.

  39. Thank you for taking on this important work, Senator. Working from the linked summary,
    1. I support the elimination of many Mandatory Minimums. However, are there other especially pernicious and abused controlled substances that can be specifically identified for inclusion in MANDATORY MINIMUMs for the heroin structure instead of just fentanyl. Isn’t “related substances” too vague? Is “similar substances” better?
    2. Get rid of more assessments of court fees and other costs that low income people cannot possibly afford. Why not have income be a factor in making such assessments, as it is now for setting bail?

  40. Thanks for all your work on this — this bill seems like an extremely positive step. I’m not sure that mandatory minimums even for opioids are the right way to tackle the epidemic we’re facing, but overall I think this bill is a not just a small step but a long stride in the right direction. Thanks again for all your work and I hope this makes it through the rest of the legislative process smoothly!

  41. I thank the Judiciary Committee for compiling this broad criminal justice reform bill. It makes so much sense to do it all at once. Seeing this significant step makes the lobbying we have been doing seem worthwhile, and may keep us more engaged.I’m particularly grateful at the ways it will keep young people out of the system.

  42. I am so grateful to you for crafting a vital, yet winnable package. Good for you! I am sending alerts to friends in other parts of Massachusetts to call their senator for support of the bill. Thank you for your hard work.

  43. This is a welcome and pleasant move in the right direction. It is my hope that the bill will become a new law in the very near future. Thanks to the people who worked very hard to give us a reason for hope.

  44. Senator: Some of the steps envisaged here are indeed relevant and important and I commend your good work.
    There is however no reference to your bill proposing changes in the composition of the parole board. What is the status of that legislation?
    And it’s unfortunate that there seems to have been no effort to curb excessive sentencing, notably the imposition of life sentences offering no hope of parole.
    — Nathaniel Harrison, Watertown

  45. My thanks to the Judiciary Committee for its hard work in compiling this broad criminal justice reform bill. UU Mass Action/EMIT will be working hard to see that it and a corresponding bill in the House get enacted.
    I agree with Josh Beardsley below on mandatory minimums. I am disappointed, however, that the use of risk assessment tools is limited to bail reform. John Pfaff in his new book, Locked In, points to so many ways in which these tools can take some of the burden off of prosecutors and judges in considering options such as dismissal, diversion, charging as felony or misdemeanor, plea-bargaining, probation, and incarceration.

    1. Thanks, Dirck.

      Thanks so much for your support.

      There is a lot of energy around risk assessment tools and I’m hopeful that we can get them used more broadly. Much of that happens within the courts and executive branch and does not require legislation. But we will continue to discuss that legislatively.

  46. All of the summary proposals will help alleviate much unnecessary suffering and recidivism while saving millions of dollars in incarceration expenses. The “tough on crime” measures of the past 3 decades have proven counterproductive.

    Do not forget the importance of using the incarceration savings to provide pathways back to productive citizenship (drug rehabilitation, employment training, mental health treatment, preventing homelessness).

    Thank you for your well thought out and carefully crafted proposals.

  47. Thank you Senator Brownsberger for your important work as reflected in this bill. I applaud your efforts and hard work and am encouraged to see many of the provisions that I feel are critical to justice reform included such as the elimination of mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses (Although I would have liked to have seen the elimination of mandatory minimums for all drug offenses), bail reform, provisions to reduce the use of solitary confinement, and an effort to reduce juvenile incarceration.

    I hope the House will come out with an equally ambitious bill. I have communicated my support to my representative.


  48. I am so glad that this bill is here and I whole heartedly support all of it! I have spent time getting to understand the kind of system we have created and there are so many things that need change. This is a very good start and I thank you for bringing this bill to the floor. Massachusetts should be a leader in change for the criminal justice system which has been so stacked against the minority and poor populations and that is not at all working toward rehabilitation. Save our citizens and reform what is wrong. Thank you!!!!

  49. I ran this by a friend who is involved in criminal justice reform in Florida, and here are her comments (I only read your summary, above, so you might have addressed these in the bill already, but they sounded like some good ideas):

    It would be nice to see some specific language about what will be done to help returning citizens once they are released from prison. Some ideas: training for work in prison, obtaining state ID’s so they can work, having employers interview people for work that are about to be released. providing temporary lodging at low rates until they are on their feet, providing counseling, group support discussions and support.

  50. Thank you for moving this legislation forward. My natural impulse is towards punishment; however, it doesn’t work, it’s unfairly applied, it destroys neighborhoods and families, and costs a fortune. It would be much better to remove financial and other incentives to incarcerate, use tracking devices for non-violent offenders, and investing in programs that help those reentering or at-risk keep clean and engaged. Incarceration is so much more expensive than schooling and employment.

  51. Thank you so much for this bill. I agree with every direction you have pursued and will do as much as I can to support this.
    I understand that politics is the art of the possible. On the other hand, I believe it’s important to keep our eyes on the prize. I look forward to the day when we can return to the idea that the convicted person, on leaving incarceration, probation or parole, has paid his/her debt to society -NO entanglements to make the person a permanent pariah and second class citizen.
    Also, there are very few people selling alcohol on the streets. That’s because it’s cheaper and much safer to buy it in a liquor store. That should be the goal – liquor store, pharmacy – of our regulation of drugs. The black market and all it’s dangers and criminal justice ramifications would be gone.
    I’m sorry that innocence issues didn’t make it into the bill – issues like equal funding by prosecution and defense for high-profile cases, scientific methods of witness identification, reforms in the use of jailhouse snitches

  52. Thank you for your important work on this well crafted and judicious bill. I especially appreciate the attention you have given to the children of our commonwealth, both the children of people involved with the criminal justice system and the emphasis on mitigating the wholly inequitable school to prison pipeline. There is much within this bill that is laudable and I hope it moves ahead with the necessary traction.

  53. Thank you, Senator Brownsberger, for bringing forward this bill. We are in desperate need of criminal justice reform. This bill has the potential to heal deep societal wounds and to support people in being better able to contribute their personal assets as generative members of communities.

  54. I am currently working on a review of the literature about restorative justice. I have two suggestions for you to consider regarding the restorative justice proposal on pages 104-107 of your criminal justice reform package: (1) There are financial costs to running restorative justice programs, and the inclusion in this bill of an express commitment to state financial support of such programs would be critical to assuring program feasibility and sustainability; (2) Studies of referrals to restorative justice in the criminal context in the United Kingdom indicate that referrals to restorative justice interventions are much lower when such referrals are left to the discretion of the criminal justice system than when they are statutorily mandated – this finding might be instructive for the Massachusetts context (see Umbreit, M. S. (1998). Restorative justice through victim-offender mediation: A multi-site assessment. Western Criminology Review, 1:1. Available at

    1. Thank you for these points. Unfortunately, we can’t put funding in this bill, but I agree it is desirable. As to mandating it, the approach here is to make it voluntary for both sides — the perception being that it only really works if it is voluntary, although I’m sure participation would be higher if it were mandated. Also, not sure when one would mandate it.

  55. As to solitary reform, I am sure that you know that Massachusetts is near the top of all states for inmate suicide. The Bureau of Justice Statistics say the national average is 16/ 100,000 but in Massachusetts it is 32/ 100,000. This is double the national average despite out being one of the lowest in incarceration rates. I wonder how many may have spent time in solitary and if so, could this be why our suicide rate among inmates is so high ? Should we be asking this question? One of our most recent suicide, Aron Hernandez , spent time in solitary. How many others have ?

  56. A good start in the right direction. Unnecessary incarceration does not improve the community

  57. I’m particularly fond of this item:

    “The bill introduces a new protection for children of people involved in the criminal justice system, requiring the court to make written findings of necessity before sentencing the primary caretaker of a child to incarceration.”

  58. Well done. As a teacher, I especially appreciate: “protection for children of people involved in the criminal justice system, requiring the court to make written findings of necessity before sentencing the primary caretaker of a child to incarceration.” Children of all ages are vulnerable, and when they are separated from their parent or caretaker, we see this reflected in their behavior and academic performance. This in turn, has grave repercussions as they become independent adults.

  59. I am really pleased to see the emphasis on rehabilitation and restorative justice in this bill. I support the repeal of many mandatory minimum sentences and raising the age for juveniles. This looks to be a very good bill and I hope it will be enacted into law.

  60. Thank you for shepherding this bill. It represents a good start. As a volunteer with the Mass Bail Fund, I have been especially concerned with how cash bail disproportionally affects people of color and the poor. I have concerns about how probation will be used but I also recognize that this is a work in process, and will need continual refinement.

    My hope is that we can move further to decriminalize drugs and provide more opportunities for diversion and treatment both in prison and without.

    I also am excited by the possibility of more opportunities for restorative justice.

    I did not notice reforms related to parole; our justice system currently emphasizes punishment and retribution and this affects parole outcomes. I would like to see prisoners have more influence in demonstrating rehabilitation in the parole process.

  61. Illuminate mandatory minimums. Raise the age of consideration as an adult from 19 to 21. Years

  62. Thank you for your work on this important bill, which is a welcome step toward much needed criminal justice reform. Three areas of particular interest:

    ~ “reducing the use of arrest as a tool of school discipline”.
    Also important in this effort:
    1. mandating de-escalation training for
    law enforcement
    2. clear statements on role of law enforcement in schools

    ~ preventing “people from being incarcerated solely due to their inability to afford bail”

    ~ reducing the use of solitary confinement.

  63. Thanks for your work on this bill. If enacted it will be provide great strides toward justice reform.

  64. Thank you for your work on this bill! It is important to reduce the inhumane practice of “restrictive housing” (solitary confinement). The psychological impacts are extreme and it should not be used lightly.

  65. Thank you for all the hard work and courage which went into this bill.
    As a social worker I saw how my low-income clients were repeatedly tripped up and blocked from achieving a healthy family life and housing and job security by badly-conceived laws and badly-executed policing. Taxpayer-supported Medicaid paid me to support them; a tax-supported “justice” system repeatedly pulled the rug from under them.
    A really comprehensive bill – so unusual in MA. But I still hope that Solitary confinement, by whatever name, can be limited to 10 days, beyond which it can become permanently neurologically damaging; that cash bail and parole./probation fees which overwhelmingly disadvantages the poor and minorities ca be eliminated, as in the D.C., that alternative sentencing for caretaking parents can become routine along with funding for expansion of family and treatment facilities with proven track records. All of this will make greater Boston a safer place for all of us.

  66. Dear Senator Brownsberger,
    Thank you for your work on this bell. I strongly support comprehensive criminal justice reform.
    Best regards,

  67. I am writing to express my support for the Senate Criminal Justice Reform Bill. I am especially pleased to see the number of proposed improvements to the juvenile criminal justice laws. In addition I fully support the provisions to reduce the long-term entanglement of people with the criminal justice system and would favor the elimination of fees for required parole and probation appointment, and the elimination of incarceration to collect these fees and fines.

  68. Thanks for your work on this, Senator. It is very heartening to see progress on criminal justice reform. Our present system is badly broken and this acknowledges the brokenness and begins to right the wrongs. I’m praying that restorative justice will become part of one of the bills coming out of this session!

  69. Thank you for this summary and for this bill. I support it and want this legislation to move forward.

  70. The proposed changes are reasonable. I support the reform bill.

    To prevent recidivism, it would help if prisoners were allowed to build up a nest egg while in prison to receive upon release. One sheriff offered free labor by prisoners to build Trump’s wall in Mexico. To avoid continuing a tradition of slave labor, I recommend paying prisoners for work that they do. The accumulated funds will provide ex-convicts with options when they are finally released, and reduce the need to turn to crime.

  71. Thanks for this summary and the section by section explanations. There are a lot of great things in this bill that I hope will stay in the bill. I am glad to see that there is a reduction in the use of mandatory minimums for some drug crimes although it would be better to get rid of more so judges can sentence based on sentencing guidelines and the particulars of the case. I am glad to see medical parole, solitary restrictions (although would have liked to see a review before 6 months), an increase in the felony larceny threshold, encouragement of the use of restorative justice and diversion, some pre-trial and bail reform, some reduction in fines and fees especially for those who are indigent. I am also glad to see shorter times for sealing and expungement especially for juveniles and those falsely accused to aid in CORI reforms, encouragement to take primary caretaker status into account and the elimination of various collateral consequences. I would have liked to see parole board reforms and raising the age somewhat higher but 19 is a good start.

    I do hope the State House comes up with a final bill that lowers our incarceration rate, is transparent about who is incarcerated, for how long, and in what conditions, and makes sure not to incarcerate those who would be better served by mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment. And make sure that racial disparities are addressed and analyzed for bias against certain groups or neighborhoods.

    Thanks for this great effort and I will be doing what I can to support passing the strongest criminal reform bill this fall.

  72. Good to see the coverage of such a crucial bill on the front page of the Boston Globe this morning.

  73. these are all common sense and humane changes – of what earthly use is it to stockpile juveniles in prison where they interact for long periods with others who have behavioral disturbances, such as mental health problems?

    getting rid of mandatories is a positive mood – why do we need judges if we have mandatories?

    focus on the family is the right thing to do – just as illness is a family problem, so is incarceration…for example, our latest mass shooter is the son of an incarcerated father…had there been intervention with this individual who knows what salutory effect it may have had?

    review and revision is long overdue – i commend Will Brownsberger

  74. I am so pleased and grateful for this courageous legislation! The unfairness of the criminal justice system as it currently stands is unacceptable, and ambitious and sweeping legislation is required to right the wrongs. Let’s use our tax dollars to do good and not harm! I fully support this bill.

  75. I am so excited by the positive steps in this bill that will cut down on incarceration of 18-year-olds, addicts, and those affected by poverty. I’m especially relieved to know that young drug offenders or behaviorally disabled will have a chance to go to programs designed to help them work through their issues and get on a better path to responsible citizenship Thank you!!!

  76. This is a wonderful step to improve true justice in our Commonwealth. I’m especially relieved to know that young drug offenders or behaviorally disabled will have a chance to go to programs designed to help them work through their issues and get on a better path to responsible citizenship Thank you!!!

  77. I worked in criminal justice nonprofits for a long time. So many things we talked about over and over, are in this summary. I am grateful to live in Mass. where people actually talk about how lives are affected by legislation, past legislation, and the many inconsistencies in departmental practices at all levels. Nice to feel a little hope.

  78. Thank you for all the thought you’ve put into this bill and for championing criminal justice reform over the years. I fully support these measures and will be encouraging my rep, Cory Atkins, to support them as well.

  79. Thank you for your work on this bill. It includes many provisions that would go a long way to reducing the number of people who are under state control. I wish that the age for juvenile offenders were higher – 20 or 21 – but I am pleased about the proposal to raise it to 19. I am very glad to see the proposed curbing of mandatory minimum sentences. I am very glad to see the changes in solitary confinement rules, and the extra protections for primary caregivers. Our society has done so much wrong in terms of justice for those accused of a crime. I hope the House bill will mirror this one and move reform in a positive direction.

  80. This is an impressive job and the best measure to come before the legislature in the 24 years I’ve been involved with criminal justice reform. I was disappointed that you and the committee were not able to come up with more clear restrictions on the use of solitary. I know you visited Maine, which, as the PBS Documentary on Frontline has shown, has dramatically reduced their use of solitary, but I don’t think leaving so much discretion in the hands of a system organized around punishment and control will yield results.

    I welcome all the important changes for juveniles, but there is one important one that you omitted. We should not be able to put juvenile offenders, struggling with their identity and sexuality, on the sex offender registry. There is very little relationship between the kinds of juvenile behaviors involving sexuality and adult predators. Once you are on the Sex Offender Registry, you are tarred for life, unable to pursue an education, get a job, get housing. For both juveniles and adults, this is a neglected area for reformers.

    I hope this bill or something like it will pass, but there is plenty more for us, with your leadership, to work on.

  81. In terms of the statistical analysis of the effect of the changes to the mandatory minimum’s for drug offenses with the bill, the 2/3 which are referred to as being dropped in plea bargaining cannot be taken off the tally of the bill’s effect as DA’s use the fear of mandatory minimums higher jail time to get people to agree to plea bargaining so that a true accounting would have to include that effect. It is not likely that the data is accessible making an accurate analysis unlikely. I assume that the effect is actually significantly greater than the stated 6%

    1. Steve, you are absolutely right that the mandatories have a large impact through the plea bargaining process, but you are turning the math around. Without any allowance for plea bargaining the mandatories not repealed by the bill account for 2% of the case flow as sentenced. The plea bargaining inflates it by a factor of three (ish!) and that is accounted for — that’s how we get up to the 6%.

  82. It sounds like a great bill! I’m wondering what was sacrificed, where the bill compromised, and how whatever was given up can be achieved (solitary confinement? I know that some Watertown activists were hoping for change in that regard…). I’m not too experienced or knowledgable in the area, but everything above seems like a good change.

  83. Dear Senator Brownsberger:
    I am writing to reiterate my strong support for this bill, along with my hope that as the bill progresses the treatment of mandatory minimums can be strengthened. As can be discerned from yesterday’s Globe article, DA opposition will continue to be a big problem. But, as I am sure you know, without repeal of all low level drug substances, people who are users or addicts can still get caught up in the mandatory minimum drug trafficking. Thank you for all of your hard work on this bill.
    Margaret Drury

  84. Thank you for your work on this broad based bill which is a positive step towards broad based criminal justice reform.

  85. Thank you so much for proposing such rational comprehensive reform, especially for addressing destructive drug possession penalties and supporting the restorative justice option in appropriate cases. I’m a psychologist and expert in psychological trauma, and in my work with traumatized and often addicted victims and perpetrators of violence, I see how much punitive criminal approaches have only perpetuated and exacerbated trauma, addiction and violence in many families and communities. Thank you again for pushing things in a new direction.

  86. Dear Senator, Thank you for all your work. Could you please tell me where I can read the entire bill so that I can adequately comment on solitary confinement, a topic in which I am versed and about which I am passionate. Thank you.
    Jeannette Hanlon, LICSW, M.Div.
    Founder, Partakers, Inc.
    Former state prison system social worker

  87. So what happens to someone who sells 100 grams of cocaine or under. Anything? If they sell near a school anything?

  88. Will,

    This is wonderful.
    I agree with all of the provisions.
    I have worked in an alternative high school and have seen the heartbreaking effects of lack of these critical reforms.

    Bless you for all you are doing to help.

    Cathy Couture

  89. Senator Brownsberger,

    Thank you for this summary. I have been following the individual bills in this package and hoping they would pass. They are in line with the solutions recommended by experts who study the problems in our criminal justice system. Other states have already implemented similar bills with great success. They have not only reduced the rates of incarceration and recidivism but have saved the taxpayers billions of dollars. It’s time for Massachusetts to join the other states as a leader in addressing criminal justice problems with progressive, evidence based measures that really work for offenders as well as for society.

    Janet Cason

  90. This bill is a significant step forward to bring Massachusetts into the Criminal Justice 21st Century. I applaud your work putting this together, and the way you consulted a vast array of stakeholders from all parts of the political spectrum, including GBIO. I also appreciate your transparency and your posting of both the sections of the legislation as well as your reasons for including them.

    I want to concur with other commenters that the sections dealing with changes to the Mandatory Minimum sentencing structure need further work. At the end of the day, important drug traffickers will not do less time if Mandatory Minimum sentencing is repealed. What will happen is that the expected checks and balances will be restored so that judges, and not prosecutors, will decide sentences based on the evidence and circumstances of each case. Communities of Color have known for decades how devastating this problem is for their communities, and everyone should understand that we are all made less safe and poorer by leaving the status quo.

    I hope the House will take a bolder stand to repeal all Mandatory Minimum drug sentences, and that you will lead the Senate to concur with such a compromise bill.

    _Alan Epstein

    Watertown Resident,
    Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) Criminal Justice Task Force

  91. I strongly support this bill with it’s focus on reducing school to prison pipeline, supporting diversion programs and restorative justice, and not discriminating against poor people who can’t pay bail. Thank you!

  92. Thank you! This has been a long time coming, and I hope it will not slip through our fingers this time.

    And after we wrap this one up, can we regroup and refocus to stop solitary confinement and repeal mandatory minimum drug sentencing in our state?

  93. So glad to hear about this bill! As a person of faith working with an incarcerated person in the prison system, this is especially meaningful to me. I wish the age of juvenile offenders could have been raised to 21, but this is at least an improvement. Thank you so much.

  94. Thank you for your total commitment to seeing that these provisions help to reform what are many harmful aspects of our current criminal justice system. While law breakers should be held accountable, they should not be subject to arbitrary, discriminatory, and destructive measures that make efforts to lead productive lives more onerous.

  95. First, I’d like to thank the Senator for the hard and good work that he has already done – especially the bail system reform, fees/fines reform and limited reform of the solitary confinement practice (although more could be done there). However, I continue to urge for full repeal of Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing AND no new MMs especially.

    Give discretion to judges and not prosecutors and end mass incarceration which is so heavily racially biased. Please see the Boston Bar Association Report which addresses this issue clearly and emphatically.,

  96. Thank you for your work to reform many of the harmful aspects of the criminal Justice system. I support this bill.

  97. Will, what happened to decriminalizing or otherwise lowering the criminal consequences of consensual under-age sexting? ie two 15 year olds exchanging inappropriate images via text.

    As you say, it is not a behavior that we want to encourage; however, the involvement of police and the explicit threat of a conviction of child pornography and needing to register as a sex offender for life causes harm well beyond the possible benefits of deterrence.

    Having gone through this with my family, I promise it is a terrible, ineffective, and terrifying experience.

  98. ‘Thank you for your hard work on this legislative package. It could move us to a significantly better place as a state. The cultural change will come with challenges, but other states, both red and blue, have moved successfully in the same direction and that should help us do it too.

    Hopefully, this legislation will pass through the Senate and House relatively intact. I hope we can follow its bumps and achievements along the way–and keep voicing our support until it is passed. Many thanks.

  99. I wholeheartedly support this bill. Let’s make Massachusetts a leading state in Criminal Justice reform; it is so needed. Thank you for your work on this crucial issue.

  100. Dear Senator Brownsberger,

    Thank you for your longstanding heroic efforts to reform our criminal justice system.
    I am writing specifically on the issue of solitary confinement. I come at it both as an academic, and as one who has visited prisoners in solitary confinement in Massachusetts prisons and jails as a social worker. Noble and onerous as the efforts have been and are presently to advance legislation that is more humane, we must come to realize, now, that solitary confinement doesn’t work.

    A culture is created in these units, as part of parcel of the prison system, where, regardless of the rules legislated, the keepers of the keys can and do rule with abandon and subterfuge, something you and I, were we in their position, would be want to do.

    Let me give you two examples. I visited a young man in solitary many times who was not given changes of clothing. He reeked. He was not being given the mandated number of showers per week. He had one possessions and no diversions for weeks on end. He was young and full of energy. He couldn’t believe his predicament and requested a social worker see him regularly. One day, hIs one possession, his fancy sneakers were taken from him: the tongues were cut out and the shoes returned. He whispered as he told me this, knowing there would be repercussions for complaining from the on-site correctional officers. I wrote about this in his chart. And that’s as far as things went.

    Second, a woman was having a psychotic breakdown in her cell, banging her head against the wall. As per regulations, a social worker had to see her and give the okay for the forced move, where several heavily padded men enter her cell and forcibly constrain her. As that social worker, I knew full well what my task was: to speak to the woman, tell her, as best she could understand, what was going to take place, and then witness her being manhandled and put in multiple constraints, both four point, and large, male hands holding her down.

    In both these instances, rules were loosely followed. For instance, a social worker was requested in both instances; however, she had no power to influence the course of things and her token presence led to ethical violations within her professional code of conduct. There are myriad ways, as many as stars in the heavens, for the rules legislated to be perverted and transgressed: you can not legislate sanity for a de facto insane system.

    We have to see isolation units as extraordinary dysfunctional places where those who are assigned to guard the prisoners, in their attempt to maintain sanity, and keep safe, where it is important for officers to have one another’s back, join the culture of their peers where strict unwritten rules about how the prisoners will be treated are communicated and enforced.

    It is a no win situation. Perhaps you’ve had a chance to watch the PBS series on Vietnam. Isolation units are not so different in that the soldiers (correctional officers) stick together, have a loyalty code, and do what needs to be done to “the enemy” to survive.

    It is impossible for a prisoner to “get better” or “learn to behave” in solitary confinement.

    I propose two possible alternatives.

    One: implement reforms similar to those that have been done successfully in states where isolation has been drastically reduced.

    Two: treat prisoners who are potentials for isolation the EXACT SAME WAY prisoners who are seen as being at risk in the general population, due to their crime, are currently being treated and cared for. They are removed from “general population” but do not have the restrictions of solitary confinement.

    Thank you.


    Nettie Smith

  101. My question is:
    Does this bill include violent crimes and life without parole changes for juveniles who have been incarcerated before the age of 17 and 18 years of age and after? In this statement, I am interested in knowing if those who have been given LWOP sentence will be able to seek parole hearings? Will it be retroactive or only for newer cases?
    Thanks Senator Brownsberger

  102. I am absolutely in support of this Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform Bill S.2170 without any amendments that would weaken it.

    This bill is important to me because I know people who have been in the criminal justice system unfairly and or who needed supports while incarcerated.

    I also ask you to consider amendments either at this time or in the future to make the bill even stronger.

    This effort to reform our criminal justice system is long overdue. I am grateful for the amount of work that went into the Senate omnibus bill.

    In addition, I would prefer, with regard to solitary confinement: reporting of data on outcomes from reviews, specifying that multidisciplinary panels must include a clinical psychologist, specifying more hours out of the cell per day and more programming for those in Solitary Confinement, and that reviews should be shorter than six months for those in Solitary Confinement.

    Other things I mention on Solitary Confinement are: asking for re-entry support and not just release to the street from Solitary Confinement, not being sent to Solitary Confinement for self-harming behaviors, and defining the perceptible risk of harming others.

    I do also support the elimination of cash bail since Massachusetts does not appear to have a failure to appear problem. Other bail changes I would make for youth under the bail system are: asking for language to clarify that diversion does not require that a child be enrolled in a formal program as a condition of diversion, and recommending non-adjudications/non-convictions of felony offenses be considered for expungement. Also, Massachusetts should not keep children in detention for more than 15 days – 120 days is too long, not what many other states have, and are often (70% of the time on average) for technical violations rather than new offenses.

    In addition, I support having no mandatory minimums and allowing the judges to make the decisions on people’s lives, rather than having the mandatory minimums make the decisions.

    I am aware that the Senate vote will happen in the next couple weeks and support its passage.

    Do also think about adding these other changes to the bill as well, either at this time or in the next couple of years. Criminal Justice Reform will take a lot of work to get right. I would like these changes to be made when possible.

  103. I support this bill without any amendments to weaken it. Thanks for taking steps forward in fixing the broken criminal justice system.

  104. I hope very much that this bill passes without any amendments. I am a Massachusetts resident and fully support this legislation!

  105. The level of incarceration in this country is a national disgrace. We must ask ourselves “what kind of country are we that we put in prison a larger portion of our citizens than any other country and where there are private companies that make a profit from it!” Plus we use
    long term solitary confinement which is a form of TORTURE!
    Yes, I am for this bill.

  106. Senator Brownsberger-I am grateful for your leadership on CJ Reform. I am asking that you consider taking up Senate 1090 and 1091 as part of your comprehensive reform bill. These bills would prevent the unnecessary arrest and incarceration of people with behavioral health disorders by giving municipal police officers in all 351 cites and towns in the Commonwealth access to evidence-based training programs on best response to people with mental illness and substance use disorders. Upwards of 25% of 811 calls are related to someone experiencing a behavioral health crisis; let’s give our police officers the tools they need to keep people safe, healthy and connected to needed services in their communities. Very truly yours, June Binney

  107. I support your vote for the criminal justice reform omnibus bill, S.2170, without any amendments that would compromise its goals. I also request that you support any amendments that would further improve the conditions of solitary confinement. Your leadership on this long-overdue reform is of critical importance!

  108. I fully support your efforts to pass comprehensive criminal justice reform in Massachusettts. My Quaker Meeting has presented a statement of support to the Judiciary Committee. Our colleagues at the UU church of Arlington say this is a once in a generation chance to pass such legislation.

  109. This bill is long overdue and makes sense. Its time to overall the system so that it works to keep people out of prison instead being a system that seems to be designed to make incarceration a way of life. I fully support it and would also support amendments to further improve conditions of solitary confinement.

    Thank you!

  110. I thoroughly support this bill. There are far too many people in prison in this country and in MA. And we spend far too much tax money on prisons. Few people are improved by time in prison and minorities are way over-represented among prpisonerw.

  111. I am so glad to see such a good bill, I hope it will be voted on in the next week or so without any amendments to weaken it. It is such a hopeful document for young people and for poor people. We don’t get a lot of good news these days. Thank you for this very GOOD NEWS.

    Sharon Kennedy, Medford, Mass.

  112. I applaud this bill and urge the legislature to fully support it!

    As a physician who takes care of a community ravaged by the opioid epidemic, I believe strongly in the need to replace incarceration with treatment for addiction.

    I also work in a clinic inside a women’s prison and see firsthand the indelible harms that a parent’s incarceration can cause to families. Section 219 of this bill allows judges discretion in permitting community based sentences for parents who are primary caregivers of young children. This would be a major step forward in protecting vulnerable families.

    Thank you, Senator Brownsberger, for your leadership on this issue

  113. Thank you very much Senator for your leadership and commitment to strengthening the Commonwealth. There are too many people in prison in this country and in MA. More often than not people do not grow or improved by time in prison and minorities are absolutely over-represented among in our prison populations. It starts all the way back from prosecution and policing practices and that is why a comprehensive approach is needed.

    Please also continue to pursue anything that can be done to minimize or better regulate solitary confinement.

  114. A Needham woman is being held without bail on a murder charge after her elderly next-door neighbor was found dead in her home with multiple slash wounds, among other injuries.

    (She was mercilessly slashed and beaten to death).

    A not guilty plea was entered on behalf of Tammie P. Galloway, 47, on June 30 to charges of murder and larceny of a motor vehicle in connection with the death of Laura Shifrina, 81.

    Paul M. Dumouchel, executive director of the Needham Housing Authority, on June 30 said that the properties on Linden Street are designated for the elderly and disabled.

    Despite being under the age of 60, Galloway was allowed to live there because she demonstrated during the application process that she had a disability, according to Dumouchel.

    (Her disabilities didn’t stop her from beating & slashing an old woman with a knife ?)

    According to the authority’s website, it requests Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) from the Criminal History Systems Board during the application process.

    After the crime, the Board of Probation released that Galloway had 20 adult arraignments. In North Carolina she had been charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and assault and battery with a deadly weapon serious injury, among other charges.

    (Oops, we screwed up. Too bad for the dead lady who never had a chance,)

    Something is wrong with the “vetting” of criminals going into public housing ?
    A CORI check didn’t pick up anything. This poor old woman didn’t know that she had a monster living next door to her.

    If we can’t correctly “vette” US citizens, how are we supposed to “vette” foreigners and refugees that want to come here with no paperwork ?

    Woman Accused Of Needham Murder Is Held Without Bail

    CBS Boston
    Published on Jun 30, 2017

    8 lacerations to her neck, 4 defensive cuts on her left arm, 3 left broken ribs, 1 right broken rib. Stolen cell phone, wallet, jewelry, money, car. Video from convenience store shows her buying bleach 2 days ahead of the crime. Video also show her wiping down stolen car with bleach. She asked a neighbor at 11:30PM at night for tools like a hammer, screwdriver, etc.

    Galloway was arrested for an unrelated weapons charge a few weeks ago.

    Oh wonderful, she also has an “illegal” weapon ?

    Needham murder suspect appears in court

    WCVB Channel 5 Boston
    Published on Jun 30, 2017

    Used victims phone to text boyfriend “Come get me. I got money. She sent her aunt to ATM machine trying to use dead woman’s card.

    This 47 year old woman has a long rap sheet. How many chances and slap on the wrists was she given ? It’s not working. Too lenient.

    The dead lady was an aeronautical engineer, was active and had all her mental faculties. She was “sized up” and preyed upon.

    I say NO to easier sentencing. Who is supposed to protect us ?

  115. 7 Teens Charged For Attack On Quincy Pier

    I doubt that “pee wee” kid would have said or caused the beating he got by saying something offensive. He would be crazy to even try it seeing the size difference.
    If words were exchanged the old saw comes into play “Sticks and stone will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

    I don’t care if it’s case of “bullying” or what, but 7 kids against ONE ! What ever happened to a “fair fight” ? I don’t think this was a fight and it was just pure “brutality”.

    A kick to the head with a shod foot is a dangerous crime. That small kid could’ve been permanently maimed with a loss of an eye or brain damage. Just seeing this made me wince.

    There is something wrong with the lack of respect today and no empathy for the other person. And they film it ???

    AND the Legislature wants to lessen “penalties”, fines, etc.

    I really think that serious charges should be brought.

  116. Flash Mob Robbery Caught On Video In Roslindale Store

    People work long hours for little money and a bunch of little “thugs” come in and shoplift with no consequences ?

    There goes the profits for the day ! This is not a “prank” and it’s not a “joke” and it’s got to be nipped in the bud with SERIOUS consequences.

    I sometimes wonder if you politicans are walled off and protected and don’t see what’s going on out in the public ?

  117. Nun Speaks Out After Being Threatened In Church

    CBS New York
    Published on Jul 6, 2017

    I never thought I’d live to see the day when someone would threaten to KILL a nun dressed in a habit inside of a church !
    Who would ever think of harming a nun ? This was in Brooklyn.

    That man needs to be locked up for a long, long time.

    I really think you need police input before you make any changes to criminal justice reform.

  118. Bishop Attacked In Church

    CBS New York
    Published on Jan 30, 2017

    A Priest performing a mass in Newark and a man walks up and knocks him out ! The “perp” was at the church earlier planning the crime evidently.

    Our society and morals have stooped so low. People feel they have the right to do anything to anybody ?

    Why you would want to make sentences more “lenient” is beyond me ???

  119. Mom apologizes to priest after son allegedly shoots him with pellet gun

    WOWT 6 News
    Published on Apr 1, 2016

    I have some experience in “media” and this reporting of the story s*cks.

    “Mother not shy to talk with us” (TV station).

    “Of what we’re going thru.” (The criminal and negligent mother are the victims now !)

    “The mom actually turned him in” (no she didn’t ! Police showed up at her door.)

    “Do you own an Airsoft Gun ?” (she doesn’t know anything–then sees the gun on top of a TV).

    Her 11 year old son belongs to a gang, The YOK (Young Omaha Killers)

    She even has the Priest fooled thinking the mother turned the kid in (that’ll be 3 ‘Our Father’s’ and 3 ‘Hail Mary’s’ for penance)

    Priest Shot With AirSoft Gun by 11-year-old, Mom Asks For Forgiveness

    3 News Now
    Published on Apr 1, 2016

    He tries to rob a priest and shoots him in the head w/ a BB gun !!!

    What would he have done w/ a REAL gun ?

    “Police showed up at her house looking for a young male in an orange hoodie”.

    “Parents should know what there kids are doing.” Where was Mama then ? She must think it’s JUST a “title” they give for giving birth ?

    “He must’ve STOLE that gun.” “She THOUGHT he was over at a friend’s house.” EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES ! ” He wasn’t brought up that way–wasn’t raised that way–he wasn’t taught that…”

    She says “Parents should always be checking where their kids are see who their kids are hanging out with.” She just said what a parent SHOULD be doing an she contradicts everything she recommended. Can you hear the inconsistencies ?

    She should be in jail on charges of child neglect. Either that or un-tighten some of those curls on top of her head. It’s cutting off blood flow to her brain !

    You want to ease up on charges for people like this that aren’t bringing their children up properly. Children that are left to run wild and hurt innocent people ?

  120. Needham woman faces charges for Downtown Crossing crash that sent three to the hospital

    By adamg on Fri, 08/19/2016 – 9:58am

    Update: Bail set at $5,000. (Very low bail for a person who drove a car without a license, drove a lease/rental/loaner car without permission (you have to be listed on the contract as a verified driver), went thru a Red Light, hit 3 people (2 stuck underneath the car), refuse to stop–jeopardizing hitting more people. The crowd surrounded her to force her to stop. She then left the scene of an accident. Good Samaritans had to lift the car off of the injured people.)

    (What possible excuses can you make for this person besides contempt for the law)

    Boston Police charge a Needham woman without a driver’s license ran a red light and plowed into a group of pedestrians, sending three to the hospital – after good Samaritans lifted the woman’s car off them.

    Police say Shanitqua Steele, 25, was on School Street around noon when she ran the light at Washington Street in a courtesy car from a New Jersey Mercedes-Benz dealer:

    The suspect then exited the car and fled up School Street. Working together, a group of Good Samaritans lifted the car and dragged the victims to safety. The victims were later transported to area hospitals for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Officers began a search for the suspect and were told by witnesses that they had observed a person matching the suspect description enter a brown door at 3 School Street. (She said she was looking for her husband. Sound like a Big fat Lie ?) Officers quickly gained access to the building and located the suspect inside at which time she was placed in custody.

    Steele was charged with unlicensed operation, using a motor vehicle without authority and leaving the scene of a personal-injury accident, police say.
    The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office adds:

    Victims are a 63-year-old woman visiting Boston from Spain, a 45-year-old Milford woman, and her 9-year-old son, who suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious but not life-threatening. (Not life threatening to you, but a broken back and hip are life CHANGING).

    3 People Struck By Car Near Downtown Crossing
    CBS Boston
    Published on Aug 19, 2016

    Witnesses lift car off pedestrians

    WCVB Channel 5 Boston
    Published on Aug 18, 2016

    Driver accused in crash not familiar with ‘loaner car,’ attorney says

    WCVB Channel 5 Boston
    Published on Aug 19, 2016

    That is a poor excuse for her crimes.

    Assist. DA Caroline Humphrey said Steele is also facing an outstanding charge from a 2009 assault and battery case in Lynn.

    What the Assist. DA missed was ANOTHER assault and battery charge just a little over 4 weeks before this accident.
    It’s funny that the DAs Office could miss this latest charge and a reader of the article could look up and find it ?

    It’s also funny that Lynn didn’t see that outstanding charge of assault & battery in Lynn from 2009 and hold her and put her in jail on 7/12/2016 for the new charges of assault & battery ?

    This car accident (description used liberally because it was no accident)may have NOT happened if Lynn had held her ?

    This goes back to “vetting” again. Either someone isn’t doing their job, not doing it right or is negligent ? Maybe too interested in doing traffic details and napping during their regular shifts ?

    Again, back to doing thorough “vetting” on foreign people and refugees. You can’t do it correctly on American citizens or criminals. How could we trust you to do it or believe that you did it thoroughly on people with no viable paperwork ?

    Shanitqua Steele, 25, of 269 Linden St., Needham, was arrested and charged with assault and battery at 11:12 a.m. Monday 7-12-2016 in Lynn again according to the Police Log

    It looks like Ms. Steele was also given a privilege of living in Needham (with the help of a Housing Voucher). Just like Ms. Galloway who killed her senior neighbor. I would love to live there. She doesn’t seem to be too appreciative? Maybe she feels “entitled” ?

    She sure likes to “hit” people. She also seems to like going to Lynn, Lynn City of Sin a lot ?

    It looks like people who commit one kind of crime show contempt for all rules of law. Do you think that someone that won’t show up for an assault and battery charge would show up for other charges ?

    You people want to make excuses for these people ?

    It’s like an old hackneyed sitcom where the alcoholic bemoans “My life would have been different if I had a pony as a child.” to excuse their behavior.

  121. Woman Almost Runs Over Cop Over Traffic Ticket

    If you are listening to just Black citizens for reform because a lot of people are screaming “UNFAIR”, it’s just a “cause du jour”. People that are NOT responsible want a pass for their irresponsibility.

    You’ve seen the figures of crime ? Black crime is higher and is not based on “racial profiling”.

    Now that there’s video from dash cams and collar cameras. You get to see what really happened.

    Here’s a case. A synopsis of the case

    Auburn Hills, MI – Police have released dash cam footage of an Oct. 23 incident in which an officer was struck by the open door of a car as it fled a traffic stop.

    Officer Martin Mikolajczak made the stop around 1:30 a.m. at the corner of Pontiac and North Opdyke roads, finding that the driver was operating the vehicle on a suspended license.

    (I wouldn’t be driving a car if my license was suspended)

    Mikolajczak had stopped the same driver, Breianna Smart of Pontiac, in August for driving the wrong way on a one-way street, according to police.

    (It’s not picking on somebody or “targeting” a Black person when they are driving the wrong way down a street ! The officer knew her from this infraction.)

    Her license was suspended for failure to respond to that ticket, Auburn Hills Police Chief Chief Doreen Olko said. .

    (I would have paid my ticket(s). I went to college in the Back Bay in the daytime and worked full-time at night. I didn’t have the time to take mass transit and I got a lot of tickets. “Street Cleaning on this side Mon. & Thurs 8:00AM-12:00PM” and on this side of the street “Street Cleaning on this side Tues. & Fri. 8:00AM-12:00PM”. I paid my tickets promptly because I didn’t want the added fines.)

    Smart indicated during the stop that she didn’t know her license was suspended, and said she didn’t have her license with her.

    (Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.—I don’t know about you, but I always make sure I HAVE my license with me when driving a car.)

    After Mikolajczak ordered her out of the vehicle, Smart can be seen in the video talking on a cellphone, falsely claiming she was being assaulted by the officer.

    (“Claiming” to be assaulted ! He asked her several times to put down the cell phone. She could be calling a guy with a gun or a gang that would overpower the cop. Not cooperating. It’s a “fait accompli” at this point. Fight the charges in court later. )

    She then struggled with the officer as he tried to arrest her, making her way back into her car before shifting it into reverse and driving backward, forcefully knocking the officer to the ground, striking his police cruiser and speeding away.

    (Resisting arrest, assault with a deadly weapon. She has just “multiplied” the charges and made them worse over a simple traffic stop. I know she is going to have “excuses” or say he just stops Blacks. She made her own situation worse. This is the nonsense that Blacks are given more charges when stopped than other people when they are CAUSING and INFLATING them.)

    How come I always did the right thing and have never been arrested ?

    “As we do with the fast majority of this type of arrest, if she had cooperated, she would have been detained on the scene for approximately 30 minutes and been released from the scene with a ticket,” said Olko in a two-minute introduction to the dash cam footage.

    “Instead, she was arrested hours later and charged with multiple felonies. Thankfully our officer was not seriously injured and is now back to work.”

    Court records show Smart was arraigned last week on charges of fleeing police, assaulting an officer, assault with a dangerous weapon and driving with a suspended license.

    She pleaded not guilty to each count and was held on $75,000 bond.

    1.) Dashcam Shows Woman Slamming Officer With Car

    Published on Oct 30, 2015

    2.) Woman faces charges after hitting police officer
    WXYZ-TV Detroit | Channel 7
    Published on Oct 23, 2015

    3.) Breianna Smart Sentencing 12/18/15

    LawNewz Network
    Published on Dec 18, 2015

    I don’t know about you, but she is crying crocodile tears. She was pretty cocky when the cop pulled her over. I think the judge knew it too. This judge is the anomaly. They usually fall for the “tears”…..sorry.

  122. I strongly support criminal justice reform, and appreciate all the work that has been done to create such a thoughtful comprehensive bill. I believe our Commonwealth will be better for it.

  123. Justice reform is desperately needed and rehabilitation in the prison system is needed as well.

  124. Thank you for your diligent work on these important reforms. I’ll try to get to the State House tomorrow but even if not, I ask you to please SUPPORT: Amendment 1 (Cyr), which would guarantee equal protections for LGBTQ prisoners
    Amendment 8 (Barrett), which would protect the ability of prisoners to have in-person visitations
    Amendment 76 (Keenan), which calls for treatment for imprisoned drug addicts
    Amendment 100 (Hinds), which would require police to undergo implicit bias training
    Amendments 114 and 124 (Creem) and Amendments 134 and 135 (Eldridge), which would curb the abusive practice of solitary confinement
    Amendment 129 (Creem), which would repeal mandatory minimum sentences
    Amendment 149 (Creem), which would allow current prisoners serving mandatory minimum sentences for crimes for which mandatory minimums have been repealed to be eligible for good conduct credits earned on and after the effective date of the law.
    Amendment 152 (McGee), which would create a Justice Reinvestment Trust Fund to allow the savings from the decrease in incarceration to be redirected towards job training and programming for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration.

    Please OPPOSE:
    Amendments 5 (Tarr) and 25 (Moore), which would reduce the felony theft threshold to $1,000
    Amendments 18 (Rush), 60 (Tarr), and 121 (Tarr), which would re-impose mandatory minimum sentences that take discretion away from judges, where it belongs
    Amendments 24 (Moore) and 87 (O’Connor), which would expand the use of invasive surveillance technologies
    Amendment 29 (Moore), which would eliminate valuable juvenile justice improvements
    Amendments 28 and 37 (Tarr), which would make anyone who shares drugs that result in death guilty of manslaughter, thereby creating the possibility that, in the event of an overdose, people sharing drugs would be hesitant to call for help
    Amendment 40 (Tarr), which would leave in place a harsh 1980 law that denies prisoners serving mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes all possibility of participating in programs aimed at reducing recidivism while they are incarcerated
    Amendments 42 and 80 (Tarr), which would retain current parole fees

  125. Thank you for your work on reform as it is badly needed.To those who feel everyone tied up in the criminal justice system is no good, I would like to point out that according to the Innocence Project over 4% of those in prison are NOT GUILTY. In Massachusetts, that would be approx. 400 in our state prison and far more in county. At approx. $60,000. for each state prisoner, it is in everyone”s interest for the system to be more fair and save tax payer dollars. And the reason some of the innocent are ultimately freed is varied but according to the Innocence Project at the root is DISTRICT ATTORNEY MISCONDUCT. So let’s wake up and bring on reform.

  126. Please vote for reform. The current system divides us by race and wealth, two of the many distinctions pulling our nation apart. The old system neither protects neighborhoods nor supports families.

    We need reform as a small contribution toward a more perfect union.

    Thank you.

  127. Thank you for working toward much-needed reform. I’m hoping that the Massachusetts legislature can show itself to be much more functional and rational than our national government at this time. Perhaps once again Massachusetts can serve as a model.

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