As the Massachusetts Senate prepares to debate an Act to Protect Public
Safety, a proposal that deals with parole reform, habitual offenders, and
sentencing, Boston Bar Association President Lisa C. Goodheart issued the
"We are disappointed that the draft bill, in its current form, is aimed at
reducing rather than repealing mandatory sentences for non-violent drug
offenders, and in this regard, we believe that it does not go far enough.
Public safety is not enhanced by mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent
drug offenders. We can promote public safety by a sensible approach that
favors treatment over incarceration for these offenders, especially since
mandatory sentences mean that these offenders will likely return to the
community without developing the tools they need to successfully reintegrate
into society. Criminal justice reform legislation should include
sentencing reform for drug offenses. The draft Senate sentencing bill is
an opportunity to implement meaningful and sensible change in this area by
eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
Repealing mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders is sensible,
fiscally responsible and far more protective of public safety than a system
which relies on mandatory incarceration and ineligibility for positive programs
and parole considerations."
For over two decades, the Boston Bar Association has encouraged discussion of
the strengths and weaknesses of the Commonwealth's criminal justice system,
especially with regard to sentencing reform and prisoner re-entry. The BBA
has issued four major reports addressing the issue of mandatory minimum
sentencing: "Drugs and
Justice: A System Abandoned" (1989), "Drugs in
the Community: A Scourge Beyond the System" (1990), "The Crisis in
Corrections and Sentencing in Massachusetts" (1991) and "Parole
Practices in Massachusetts and Their Effect on Community Reintegration"