190th Session Wrap Up: Criminal Justice Reform
As we wrap up yet another legislative session, my office has worked to provide recaps on the vast array of subject areas that I have worked on and voted on in the Chamber. Below is an overview of the criminal justice legislation that the House voted on this session (May 19th 2018 & November 15th 2018).
This session, criminal justice reform finally took substantial steps towards progress for the Commonwealth. Two pieces of legislation were passed on the subject. One, and omnibus criminal justice bill, encompasses a wide breadth of topics including justice system data collection, the juvenile justice system, mandatory minimums and solitary confinement among them. Also relevant, An Act limiting the use of prison labor, was a direct response to the Trump administration suggestion that certain MA inmates travel to the southern border in order to help “build the wall.” This act prohibits MA inmates from doing labor outside the prison’s boundaries. Both of these acts aim to keep our community safe and protect inmates from cruel prison practices. Jay has been a strong advocate for criminal justice reform since he started in the legislature based on his experiences in the Middlesex District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor. He was a strong advocate for several provisions that made it into the final legislation, including the elimination of mandatory minimums for drug offenses, diversion to treatment for certain crimes, and bail reform.
H.4011- An Act relative to criminal justice reform
Topic: Omnibus Criminal Justice Bill
- Standardizes arrest data collection by requiring the department of criminal justice to obtain arrest data in a format consistent with the FBI’s National Incident-Based reporting System and maintain the information of a publicly accessible website.
- Establishes a Childhood Trauma Task Force to study and give recommendations on the treatment of juveniles in the justice system.
- Requires convicted felons to submit required DNA sample upon conviction rather than within one year of conviction.
- Eliminates minimum sentencing for several drug offenses.
- Raises the min. age of a delinquent child.
- Requires the Office of the Child Advocate to record data for the juvenile justice system.
- Limits the amount of time an inmate can spend in solitary confinement.
- Extends Good Samaritan protections.
- Prevents an employer from discriminating against an applicant for employment for failing to provide information on a misdemeanor conviction over three years old.
- Establishes the criminal offense of manslaughter by a business organization.
- Includes sections on:
- Bail reform
- Criminal records
- Restorative justice
- Medical Parole
- Diversion programs
Outcome: This bill passed through both chambers and was signed by the Governor on April 13, 2018
Diversion to Treatment – This provision to the bill was based on a proposal that I made. The diversion to treatment component makes it so that an alternative route to incarceration can exist for first time offenders of any age. It requires District Attorney’s offices across the State to implement such rehabilitative programs and to ensure access to veterans, juveniles, persons with disabilities, and persons with substance abuse disorders.
Bail Reform – I was proud to jointly file this amendment with Representative Rogers to establish a Bail Commission to study the effectiveness of the current cash bail system and seek the feasibility of a Risk Assessment Tool for the Commonwealth. There is also a component to speak to biases that can occur in such a Risk Assessment. Changes to our bail laws will have a great impact on our criminal justice system as all defendants are impacted by the bail rules.
H.3034- An Act limiting the use of prison labor
Topic: Criminal Justice
Summary: Requires that any inmate work program in MA be performed within its boundaries and prohibits MA’s participation in any national inmate work program to build a wall along the country’s southern border.
Outcome: This bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Ways & Means.