The ACLU of Massachusetts and the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), the Massachusetts public defender agency, today announced an unprecedented notice campaign informing wrongfully convicted people that they have a path to justice.
The notice campaign follows the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in CPCS v. Attorney General. The decision, delivered in October 2018, marked a historic victory for thousands of people who were wrongfully convicted based on evidence tainted by former state chemist Sonja Farak and subsequent prosecutorial misconduct.
More than 47,000 drug charges have been dismissed due to Massachusetts’ two drug lab scandals, but thousands of people still do not know that they were impacted by the state’s misconduct. The Court’s 2018 decision required the state Attorney General’s Office to pay to notify every person who was wrongfully convicted.
“This is a path to justice for thousands of people across Massachusetts—and an opportunity for them to more easily rebuild their lives,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Most of the people affected by the court’s decision have already served their sentences, but continue to face the collateral consequences of a drug conviction, like challenges finding housing and employment. We can’t turn back time and get back the liberty people have lost—but we can get the word out that there may be significant relief.”
In addition to printed postcards and fliers, the campaign—backed by the ACLU of Massachusetts and CPCS—features high-visibility advertisements on Western Massachusetts radio stations, news websites, social media, and in print newspapers. Advertisements on WEEI and Northampton Radio Group stations began yesterday, February 18. Digital ads on BostonGlobe.com will begin tomorrow, February 20.
The advertisements are designed to inform defendants that they can challenge their convictions in court, and to encourage people to call the public defender drug lab hotline. People convicted of a Massachusetts drug crime in a case that started between 2003 and 2013 can find out if their charges were dismissed by calling 1-888-999-2881.