You Helped Make Criminal Justice Reform History
Subject: YOU Helped Make Criminal Justice Reform History!
Thank you so much for your efforts this past week and over the past three years. The House passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill 144-9 on Tuesday night. This legislation, which was unimaginable five years ago, will improve the lives of tens of thousands of people, and is stronger because of YOUR work!!!
ECCO Leaders hold a Jobs Not Jails Vigil at the Suffolk County Jail. Credit: Boston Globe.
The House bill and recent Senate bill are both good, and each bill has parts that we want the other house to accept into in the final legislation. It will be UP TO US over the next 7 months to ensure that the best possible bill gets negotiated in conference committee and passed in both the House and Senate by July.
See below for a very helpful call to action and analysis from the wonderful Lori Kenschaft, Coordinator of the Mass Incarceration Working Group of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington. And, see below this email for Lori’s summary of what is and isn’t in the bill.
What Comes Next
Please thank your state rep for voting to make our justice system more just. Email is good and a paper thank-you card is even better. You can get their contact info at https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator. (The no votes were Berthiaume, Boldyga, DeCoste, Diehl, Dooley, Kuros, Lombardo, Lyons, and O’Connell. Benson, Calter, Finn, Heroux, and Scaccia did not vote.)
Please also thank Rep. Claire Cronin, the House co-chair of the Judiciary Committee. She put an extraordinary amount of time and effort into crafting a bill that would make a real difference and the House could get behind. Her address is State House Room 136, 24 Beacon Street, Boston MA, 02133 or Claire.Cronin@mahouse.gov .
No law — even if it were perfect — could solve all the problems in our justice system: that requires cultural changes that can’t be legislated. This law won’t be perfect, and implementation matters. But it’s amazing how far we’ve come in the last few years. It’s time to take a deep breath and give thanks.
Yes! This victory – as the Beloved Community we have built while working toward it – is reason for thanksgiving, indeed! We can’t wait to celebrate with you at our Annual Dinner, Sunday, December 3rd at 5pm, at UU Church of Greater Lynn (details below).
In solidarity and gratitude,
Summary of the Bill
Good Amendments (to the bill now called S.2200)
+ Reduce the wait time for expungement of certain records from 10 years in the original House bill to 7 years for felonies and 3 years for misdemeanors
+ Raise the felony theft threshold to $1,000 (still less than the $1,500 of the Senate bill)
+ Create a CORI guide to be provided to all incarcerated people when they are released
+ Mandate training for police officers in bias-free policing, procedural justice, de-escalation techniques, and management of mental health emergencies
+ Improve treatment for opioid addiction while incarcerated
+ No unreasonable limitations on in-person visits with someone in a correctional institution; video visits must be in addition to, not instead of, in-person visits
+ Add some improvements regarding solitary confinement
+ Add stronger provisions regarding data collection
+ Codify that juveniles should not be shackled unnecessarily
+ Better management of rape kits
+ Require a report from the Department of Corrections on the price of phone calls by July 1, 2018
+ Create a commission to investigate and improve the integrity of forensic testing
+ Create a panel to review laws and policies that affect justice-involved women and make recommendations for gender-responsive and trauma-informed approaches
+ Create a commission on correctional officer suicides and mental health (important in itself and affects the people they supervise too)
+ Lots of negative amendments did not succeed; ICE detainer enforcement by local law officials and expanding wiretap provisions were declared out of scope for the bill
Good Provisions in the Original Bill (still there or strengthened by amendments)
+ Require District Attorneys to establish pre-arraignment diversion programs for veterans, active military members, and people with substance abuse disorders or mental illness, and eliminate age restrictions on diversion programs
+ Allow both juveniles and adults to enter restorative justice programs prior to arraignment
+ Reduce the burden of fines, fees, and restitution
+ Eliminate the penalty of losing one’s driver’s license for certain offenses not related to driving
+ Eliminate some mandatory minimums
+ Limit the use of solitary confinement
+ Enable medical parole for people who are terminally ill or permanently incapacitated
+ Reduce CORI sealing times from 10 to 5 years for felonies and from 7 years to 3 years for misdemeanors
+ Allow a person with a sealed record to say they have “no record” when applying for housing or employment
+ Allow expungement of both juvenile and adult records under certain circumstances
+ Require the better collection of many kinds of data
+ Raise the lower age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 10 (the Senate bill raises it to 12)
+ Decriminalize for juveniles some actions that for adults are civil infractions and create a commission to study gender-sensitive and trauma-sensitive approaches to juvenile justice
+ Specify that cash bail must be affordable unless a judge explains in writing why an affordable amount of bail or other nonfinancial conditions would not reasonably assure that individual’s return to court
Some Disappointments and Concerns
– No raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 19
– No decriminalization of student misconduct, creating a parent-child privilege, or “Romeo & Juliet” provision
– No provision re primary caretakers
– No eliminating school zone mandatory minimums
– No allowing bail to be paid in any court during any regular court hours
– No allowing medical parole for cognitive incapacitation (such as Alzheimer’s)
– A new mandatory minimum for an assault on a police officer that causes “serious bodily injury” and new provisions regarding “intimidating witnesses” could be broadly applied
– A person can lose their driver’s’ license for not paying a sex offender registry fee (people who are classified as sex offenders have a hard time finding employment; if they lose their driver’s’ licence, that makes it even harder to get or keep a job)
– A new mandatory minimum for drug distribution that results in a death passed with an additional amendment that sends it to study; it’s neutered for now but bears watching; the big danger here is that more people will die if there are disincentives for getting help for someone who is overdosing
Some of these concerns may be resolved during the conference committee process. And do remember how many good things are in this bill!
ECCO Clergy Caucus
When: Wednesday, November 29th, 10-11:30am
Where: First Church Swampscott, 40 Monument Ave, Swampscott
What: ECCO Clergy are invited to join to share struggles and triumphs, and work together to become prophetic voices for justice!
ECCO Annual Meeting
When: Sunday, December 3rd, 5-8pm
Where: UU Church of Greater Lynn, 101 Forest Ave, Swampscott, MA 01907
What: Connect with inspiring people from across ECCO’s diverse communities, celebrate our shared successes of 2017, and recommit to our work for justice, all while eat delicious food! Please bring a potluck dish to share.