Category: Criminal Justice

Bail reforms working in other states

By Katie Lannan

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

BOSTON — As state senators prepare to take up a bill this week that would overhaul the state’s bail system, one Massachusetts sheriff said he’s seeing positive signs from other states that have undertaken bail reform.

Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian last week attended a Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration summit at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and returned armed with business cards from officials in Tennessee and New Jersey, whom he hopes to put in touch with lawmakers here.

Tennessee and New Jersey recently reformed their bail systems, and Koutoujian said law enforcement from those states could serve as useful resources for Massachusetts legislators mulling similar changes.

“They’ve had really good results, and the great thing was, the results they’re getting out of New Jersey are completely consistent — the numbers are almost identical — to the results they’re seeing out of Tennessee as well, which is interesting,” Koutoujian told the News Service. “It validates the numbers are consistent and real, basically.”

New Jersey’s bail reform — a move away from a cash-based system to one involving a tool to evaluate a defendant’s risk of fleeing or causing danger to the public — took effect on Jan. 1, 2017. By Aug. 31, the state court system there reported that the number of people in jail before a trial had dropped 15.6 percent since the year began, from 7,337 people to 6,195.

Of the 29,637 eligible defendants arrested from January through August 2017, 8 percent were released on recognizance, roughly 71 percent were ordered to participate in some form of a pretrial monitoring system, and 17.4 percent were placed in detention.

A major package of criminal justice reforms the Senate plans to debate on Thursday includes measures intended to address an August ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court that judges cannot set bail “higher than necessary to ensure the defendant’s appearance” and “that a judge may not consider a defendant’s alleged dangerousness in setting the amount of bail.”

The ruling came in a case filed by Jahmal Brangan, who was held at the Hampden County jail for more than three and a half years because he was unable to post the $40,000 bail after his 2014 armed robbery arrest.

“A bail that is set without any regard to whether a defendant is a pauper or a plutocrat runs the risk of being excessive and unfair,” Justice Geraldine Hines wrote in the decision shortly before retiring from the high court. “A $250 cash bail will have little impact on the well-to-do, for whom it is less than the cost of a night’s stay in a downtown Boston hotel, but it will probably result in detention for a homeless person whose entire earthly belongings can be carried in a cart.”

The bill (S 2185), according to a Senate Ways and Means summary, abolishes cash bail for juveniles and requires judges to consider a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail for adults. Judges would be given additional options besides cash bail, including unsecured bonds and a wider range of pretrial conditions, and the bill would require that conditions imposed be the least restrictive necessary to ensure the defendant will appear in court.

Judges would be prohibited from setting bail so high “that the defendant represents, in good faith, that he or she cannot afford” it, except if the judge finds the risk of non-appearance is so great that no other conditions would ensure the defendant would come to court, and that the defendant is likely to be incarcerated if convicted. In such cases, the judge would have to orally or in writing explain those findings for the record.

The judge would also have to explain “why the commonwealth’s interest in the secured bond amount outweighs any likely adverse impact on the defendant’s employment, education, mental health treatment, substance or alcohol use treatment and primary caretaker responsibilities.”

The bill would also require the development and use of a risk assessment tool for bail determinations, and expand the ability of pretrial detention for defendants determined to be dangerous, according to the summary.

Whether the bail changes ultimately become law would depend on the level of support they receive in the Senate — where lawmakers filed 162 amendments to the bill — and in the House, where leaders have not yet specified what criminal justice reform measures they intend to pursue.

Rep. Claire Cronin, the House chair of the Judiciary Committee, has been meeting with representatives to discuss criminal justice, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo has enlisted former Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland as an advisor.

In a letter to Cronin earlier this month, six members of the House Progressive Caucus — co-chairs Byron Rushing and Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Reps. Mary Keefe, David Linsky, Jay Livingstone and Jay Rogers — identified bail reform as one of their priorities.

“Instituting a risk-based approach to pretrial release detentions would allow persons who cannot afford money bail to avoid incarceration, losing employment, and having to find emergency childcare, all while saving the state money,” the letter said. “Massachusetts should focus the money spent on unnecessary incarceration for pre-trial individuals who pose little threat to public safety towards expanding programs that encourage an alternative route to incarceration like restorative justice or diversion programs.”

Read more: http://www.lowellsun.com/breakingnews/ci_31401924/bail-reforms-working-other-states-koutoujian-says

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Governor Baker signs rewritten recreational pot law

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law on Friday overhauling the marijuana legalization measure voters put on the books in November, and immediately afterward offered a cautious outlook on the future of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts.

“I don’t support this,” Baker said after signing the law in his office, shortly past noon. “I worry terribly about what the consequences over time will be, and having spent a lot of time talking to folks in Colorado and in Washington and having talked to a lot of people who’ve talked to folks in Colorado and Washington, there are a lot of pitfalls that we need to work hard to avoid.”

A vocal opponent of the ballot question that legalized and regulated the use, sale and possession of marijuana by people age 21 and older, Baker praised the work of legislators to address issues dealing with local control, packaging and potency labeling.

“The people voted this, and I think it’s really important that we put the program in place and deliver a workable, safe, productive recreational marijuana market for them in Massachusetts,” he said.

Retail marijuana sales are set to begin in July 2018, just over 11 months away.

The new law raises the maximum tax rate for retail marijuana sales from 12 percent to 20 percent and changes the process by which municipalities can ban marijuana shops within their borders.

Now, the local governing boards of cities and towns that voted against the ballot initiative will be able to institute a ban, while a majority of voters must sign off on a ban in communities that supported Question 4 last November.

Baker was joined for the signing by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, lawmakers who had been on either side of the ballot question and members of the conference committee that negotiated the new law: Rep. Jay Livingstone, who supported legalization; Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Paul Tucker, who both opposed it; and House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, Rep. Mark Cusack, Rep. Hannah Kane, Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Sen. Will Brownsberger – all conferees.

The conference committee blew past a June 30 deadline to reconcile the differing House and Senate bills, delivering a compromise to Baker on July 20. Baker described the issue as “very tough and difficult and complicated,” and Mariano drew laughter from the other lawmakers when he interjected to describe the process as “a lot more complicated than you know.”

“I want to thank the Legislature for sticking with this,” Baker said. “This was a very difficult negotiation and a very tough conference committee, and they saw it through all the way to the end and got a bill here.”

Baker had 10 pens on his desk for the signing and distributed them to the legislators afterwards, handing the first one to Lewis — who, like him, was involved in the No on 4 campaign — and thanked him for his leadership.

Cusack, who chairs the Legislature’s Marijuana Policy Committee with Jehlen, said the cannabis industry in Massachusetts has the potential to grow into a multibillion-dollar one and that the committee will keep working on issues that may arise over time.

“There will definitely be jobs, and there will be economic spinoff from growing, manufacturing and retail, so there will be a heavy impact economically.” Cusack said.

The law’s first deadline is Tuesday, by which Baker, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and Attorney General Maura Healey must each appoint five members to a Cannabis Advisory Board.

“The treasurer, the attorney general and our administration and others have a lot of work to do between now and next July to get this thing stood up, and we’re all going to chase it as aggressively as we can,” Baker said.

About an hour after the law was signed, Goldberg announced her five advisory board picks: Norton Arbelaez, who founded RiverRock Medical Marijuana Center in Denver; former Brookline public health and human services director Dr. Alan Balsam; Sage Naturals President and CEO Michael Dundas; Jamie Lewis of Mayflower Medicinals; and attorney and cannabis advocate Shanel Lindsay.

Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the Yes on 4 campaign, said the next main focus for advocates is ensuring that regulators are given sufficient funding and appointments are made on time.

“That’s crucial, and we hope that’s met because we don’t want to see any unintended delays due to appointments not being made in the allotted time,” he said.

http://randolph.wickedlocal.com/news/20170728/governor-baker-signs-rewritten-recreational-pot-law

http://www.milforddailynews.com/news/20170728/governor-baker-signs-rewritten-recreational-pot-law

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Rep. Livingstone’s 2017-18 Legislative Agenda

Filed Legislation

2017-2018 Legislative Session

I am so thrilled to share some of the bills that I have filed this legislative session. Our team hit the ground running with bills spanning topics like criminal justice reform, protecting civil liberties, encouraging social justice, and promoting education. Here are some bills that I am particularly excited about this session:

HD2550 – An Act relative to criminal forfeiture
This bill repeals and replaces the Commonwealth’s existing forfeiture law, which received an F grade from the Institute of Justice in a recent 50-state survey. Currently property owners in Massachusetts do not have to be convicted of a crime or even charged with one to permanently lose their money, cars, businesses, or even their homes.  This bill would make three critical reforms to change that situation and align Massachusetts law with the laws of most other states:

  • Require a criminal conviction before a person’s property can be forfeited,
  • Require the state to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture, and
  • Eliminate a profit-motive for seizing personal property by directing forfeited property to the General Fund instead of the law enforcement agency.

HD 655 – An Act creating a common application for core food, health, and safety-net programs
This bill works to address the disparity commonly known as the “SNAP Gap.” Currently, there are about 680,000 people who are receiving Mass Health benefits and are likely eligible for SNAP but are not receiving SNAP benefits, for which the State is currently reimbursed by the federal government. MassHealth and SNAP have separate application processes that ask for the same basic information, duplicating efforts and creating more work for both the state and applicants. This legislation would create a common application portal to let low income households apply for MassHealth and SNAP at the same time. This would lay a foundation for a comprehensive common application portal for safety-net benefits which would reduce duplicate data collection and increase the efficiency of State Government while helping our State’s low-income population.


HD 3502 – An Act for uniform fiduciary access to digital assets
As we increasingly use online services, it becomes more important to consider our digital afterlife. This bill would address the accessibility and privacy of a person’s digital information in the event that they pass away. This privacy-centric legislation accomplishes these important goals by balancing the interests of all parties – the privacy of the deceased user; the privacy of the people with whom the deceased corresponded; the needs of the fiduciary; and existing federal law (Electronic Communications Protection Act). The legislation would empower the user to decide if and how their communications and digital content are accessed via user level controls.


HD 400 – An Act Authorizing the establishment of a commission to evaluate student health
Creates a legislative commission to address and evaluate the growing health needs of students across the Commonwealth, including exploring the need for more school nurses in each school.  Currently, class room teachers spend too much time addressing the health needs of their students, instead of teaching, because of a lack of school nurses.


HD 2131 – An Act protecting sunlight in certain public parks
Builds on the existing State Legislative Protection on the Boston Common and Public Garden by including the Charles River Esplanade, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Copley Square Park, and Magazine Beach Park.  This bill does not weaken any current protections or allow any new exceptions.


HD 401 –  An Act to clarify the meal break law and to establish private enforcement
Massachusetts employees are legally entitled to meal breaks after six hours of employment.  Courts may punish employers who violate this law with a fine of $300 to $600 dollars, but at present, only the Attorney General has the authority to prosecute such offenders.  This legislation would allow employees to go to court without being accompanied by the Attorney General, thereby alleviating the burden on state resources while providing employees with a more effective remedy.  Ultimately, this bill seeks to treat meal break requirements in the same legal manner as wage payments and enact the same remedy for violators.


HD 664 – An Act expanding eligibility for diversion to treatment for criminal offenders
Current law allows 18-22 year old individuals who are charged with a crime but have never been convicted of a crime to avoid a criminal record by successfully completing a drug treatment program. This bill would expand eligibility to defendants of any age that are facing district court charges, pending a judge and probation’s approval.


HD 1681 – An Act to establish transparency with respect to government surveillance
Current state law does not provide criteria for the use of video recording devices by government entities. While there are some regulations at the state and local level, government entities often have wide discretion to install recording devices without any public input, record and keep for long periods of time the data collected, and give broad access to that data. This situation has the potential to infringe on the civil liberties of the law-abiding citizens unnecessarily. The bill attempts to address this situation by providing the public more information about what is happening and create standard rules for the use of recording devices.


HD 654 – An Act for fairness regarding line of duty benefits
Under current law, a $300,000 payment is given to the family any public safety employee who was killed or sustained injuries in the line of duty. This bill expands that eligibility to include the family of any public employee who dies while on the job. It also expands eligibility for the Public Service Scholarship Program.


HD 2955  – An Act to increase fair housing protections for survivors of domestic violence
This legislation will add survivors of domestic violence as a protected class under fair housing laws. This bill will protect domestic violence survivors against unfair evictions, different rental agreement terms, and denial of lease/sale. These protections currently apply to public housing but not private housing.


 

To learn more about the legislation that I have filed, you can check out my public legislative page here, or reach out to my Legislative Aide, Caitlin Duffy, by email (Caitlin.Duffy@mahouse.gov) or by telephone (617-722-2396)

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Rep. Livingstone’s Bill Co-Sponsorship for 2017-18 session

Legislative Agenda

Co-Sponsored Legislation
2017-2018 Legislative Session

Below are all of the bills that I have decided to co-sponsor this session organized by their subject area. As you can imagine, leafing through thousands of bills can be very cumbersome, so I would like to thank all of my constituents that wrote in with their requests. If you didn’t have a chance to write in, no worries! Contact information is below to remain updated on whichever bill(s) that you would like.

Download (PDF, 79KB)


To learn more about the legislation that I have filed and co-sponsored, you can check out my public legislative page here, or reach out to my Legislative Aide, Caitlin Duffy, by email (Caitlin.Duffy@mahouse.gov) or by telephone (617-722-2396)

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FY2017 Budget: Representative Livingstone’s Sponsored and Co-Sponsored Amendments

This budget cycle, Representative Livingstone has filed 8 amendments spanning from early education issues, social services, worker’s rights, and local earmarks. Below is a spreadsheet with each item along with a description and resources. An update regarding the success of each amendment will soon follow the debate.

Filed Amendments to H.4200 (Lead Sponsor)

Download (PDF, 31KB)

Co-Sponsored Amendments to H.4200

Download (PDF, 77KB)

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