Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a major criminal justice reform bill that had overwhelming Republican and Democratic support, reported Boston Herald.
“This is a huge victory for justice and shows what we can accomplish together,” said State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, (D-Boston). “Years and years of advocacy by community leaders, legislators and powerful Black and Brown grassroots organizers created a sea change in Massachusetts politics.”
“The total drug-overdose deaths was 64,070 in the 12 months through January 2017.” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 27, 2017 wsj.com/usnews
The measure was approved 37-0 in the Senate and 148-5 in the House.
The new criminal justice bill changes the substance of a broad range of reforms such as: the state bail system, solitary confinement in prison, programs that divert some youthful offenders, people struggling with mental health issues or drug addiction away from involvement with courts, reported the Herald.
“Viewed as a whole, the bill takes our criminal justice system and makes it better,” Baker said.
“Opioids, such as fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone and hydrocodone, killed more than 34,500 people in 2016.”The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 27, 2017 wsj.com/usnews
The law also allows expunging crimes that are no longer crimes, such as possessing small amounts of marijuana, while cracking down on those trafficking in the synthetic opioids fentanyl and carfentanil. It protects witnesses against intimidation and increases penalties for repeat offenders who operate under the influence (OUI) and for corporate manslaughter.
“This is a huge victory for justice and shows what we can accomplish together”
The new bill provides mandatory minimum sentences for assault and battery on a police officer causing serious injury. It also repeals several mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses, changes the level for a theft to be considered a larceny from $250 to $1,200 and changes the minimum age from 7 to 12 for criminal accountability.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, a Democrat, called the new law “a meaningful step forward in reforming our criminal justice system.”
Ryan said she was proud that “restorative justice practices” provided other means to intervene in the lives of at-risk youths and young adults by offering new options.
The startup cost of the new bill will be $15 million for the remainder of this fiscal year. Total cost will be $40 million in the 2019 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
A new criminal justice bill will follow to address issues such as parents’ option to testify against their children rather than prohibiting their testimony. But parents should not be compelled to testify, reported The Associated Press.
The bill continues access to sealed criminal records, considered critical to firearms licensing decisions and checking the background of child care worker.