MCAN and our allies are celebrating a big win for the Jobs Not Jails Coalition that we helped to lead! We won repeal of the automatic driver’s license suspension levied against any person convicted of drug possession in Massachusetts, and repeal of the minimum $500 fine to get the license back. Many legislators stepped up on this.
After a 4 year organizing fight, this bill repeals a 27-year old relic from the War on Drugs that has backfired by making it harder for ex-prisoners to work. The suspension lasted up to five years, and even longer as people could not afford the outrageous fees. This has led to unnecessary hardship, and inevitably contributed to recidivism.
Rev. Andre Bennett, an MCAN and ECCO leader from Lynn, said: “We are in the season of resurrection, redemption and rejuvenation. As people of faith we stand on the fact that redemption is possible, that people can and do change. This law will undoubtedly give members of my community the opportunity to start over – that they deserve; it provides them the opportunity to rise again – to be resurrected in their personal lives and in so doing, make our communities safer and stronger.”
Senate President Stan Rosenberg celebrated, sharing: “Massachusetts takes an important step towards reforming our criminal justice system. This bill repeals an ineffective and unfair law that made it harder for those who have paid for their mistakes to re-enter society.” At the signing ceremony for the bill he pointed out the important role the Jobs Not Jails Coalition played in passage of this bill.
For over 15,000+ people, or 6,200 people a year convicted of drug possession and possession with the intent to distribute, they will now no longer face license suspensions. In addition, many thousands of people whose licenses were suspended under this law in the past will now have their licenses automatically reinstated. What does this mean? For many, it means being able to get a job, to start a business, and to drive kids to school, sports or doctor’s appointments.
This was one piece of the Justice Reinvestment Act. In the months ahead we will continue our fight to reduce mass incarceration and re-invest millions of dollars in job training, job placement, job creation, and drug treatment.
Here is the link to the new law.
Below is just some of the media coverage of the event: