The following is a press release:
FRAMINGHAM – The House and Senate passed S. 2371 which makes major changes to modernize Massachusetts’s criminal justice system and reform the state’s policies that contribute to mass incarceration.
Representative Chris Walsh (D-Framingham), Jack Lewis (D-Framingham) and Carmine Gentile (D-Sudbury), joined the House of Representatives and members of the Progressive Caucus, in passing landmark legislation including mechanisms instituting expungement of criminal records for juveniles and adults up to age 21, for the first time in the history of Massachusetts.
Furthermore, the legislation creates strict limits on the use of cash bail, repeals some mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, raises the felony-larceny threshold from $250 to $1200, and includes comprehensive data collection, including data on incarcerated women, so that future reforms can be evidence-based. Progressive caucus membered filed amendments on all five of these priorities during the House debate, and their amendments were adopted addressing four of the five policies.
“This bill creates an excellent balance in recognizing the current risks to public safety that the opioid crisis is posing, while acknowledging that many practices needed to either be repealed or updated to reflect a more equitable criminal justice system,” said Rep. Walsh. “This legislation embodies a shift in our philosophy in differentiating those disparagingly suffering under the current criminal justice laws and those who are a danger to our communities.”
“The bill is a recognition of the numerous problems and disparities that plague our criminal justice system today, and is a significant step toward addressing some of these concerns here in the Commonwealth. In particular, it works to change how we treat youth in the juvenile justice, with new focuses on restorative justice and allowing young people to expunge their records,” said Rep Lewis. “I am honored to have joined my colleagues in passing significant criminal justice reform in the Commonwealth.”
“The reforms in this bill are historic. As an attorney whom has represented victims, defendants, and witnesses in our criminal justice system for thirty years, I am proud to have worked with colleagues in the House and Senate to enact pre-trial bail, diversion, and restorative justice reforms. The sexual assault evidence kit tracking system which I proposed was included and promises to increase successful prosecutions, more quickly identify and incarcerate serial predators, and eliminate the loss of invaluable evidence,” said Rep. Gentile.
In addition to these priorities, the Framingham delegation advocated for reforms to solitary confinement, creating a medical parole system, creating a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system, and creating a justice reinvestment fund to be included in the conference committee report.
This landmark legislation came after years of work and coordination between the Progressive Caucus, the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, the Harm Reduction Caucus, and outside advocacy groups including the Jobs Not Jails coalition.