The ACLU of Massachusetts, Prisoners’ Legal Services, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services – entities whose missions are to represent the poor in the criminal courts, advocate for the rights of the incarcerated, and protect and defend civil liberties – today released the following statement in response to the Senate criminal justice reform package:

“We are extremely pleased to see meaningful reforms proposed that will help keep people out of prison and jail who do not belong there. The provisions relating to diversion, sentencing alternatives for people who are the primary caretakers of their children, and increasing the age for juvenile court jurisdiction help make sure that incarceration is a last resort instead of a first option. Too often, people’s lives are disrupted by unnecessary collateral consequences of criminal convictions; that’s why we stand by the important adjustments this bill makes to existing CORI law and the reduction and elimination of many challenging fines and fees. We thank the Senate for their leadership on these initiatives.

“We believe, however, that this bill does not go far enough to end over-incarceration and ensure the fair administration of justice.

“Repealing mandatory minimums would restore accountability to Massachusetts’ criminal justice system by eliminating a system that works differently for different people – and while this bill would eliminate mandatory minimums for many drug offenses, it perpetuates a myth that the ‘war on drugs’ is effective policy by maintaining minimums for opioid trafficking and adding new mandatory sentences.

“We also have serious concerns about provisions of the bill related to bail reform, intimidation of a witness, and solitary confinement. The proposed bill eliminates current safeguards for incarcerated people with mental illness, and does nothing to set responsible limits on how long a person can be isolated in solitary confinement.

“While we appreciate State Senate leaders’ commitment to this issue and work on this package, we look forward to continuing to work with them and the entire Massachusetts Legislature to strengthen this bill in order to ensure the fair administration of justice, an end to unnecessary incarcerations, and the creation of a restorative criminal justice system.”

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