More than a dozen advocacy organizations today released the following statement in response to a letter signed by nine Massachusetts district attorneys in opposition to the criminal justice omnibus bill that will be debated tomorrow in the Senate:
“As organizations that have worked tirelessly to advocate for criminal justice reform, we are pleased that Middlesex District Attorney Marion Ryan and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan refused to endorse their colleagues’ disturbing efforts to undermine responsible criminal justice policy improvements.
“Unfortunately—but not surprisingly—these nine district attorneys’ action fits a familiar pattern of Massachusetts prosecutors prioritizing their own power over public safety and fairness. These district attorneys claim that Massachusetts is a criminal justice success story. The truth is, over the last three decades, incarceration has risen at a faster rate in Massachusetts than in the nation overall. Tough on crime policies have driven incarceration rates up to exceptionally high levels in communities of color, and the failed ‘war on drugs’ continues to exacerbate the opioid crisis across the Commonwealth.
“For whom is the Massachusetts criminal justice system working? Not the nearly 24,000 people convicted on tainted evidence as a result of the Hinton Drug Laboratory scandal or the untold thousands from the Amherst Drug Laboratory scandal. Not the low-income communities of color in Boston where incarceration impacts one out of every two households. Not the Black and Latino residents who make up 22 percent of the population, but 75 percent of people locked up for mandatory minimums. Not individuals suffering from opioid addiction who are 56 times more likely to die of overdoses shortly after being released from prison.
“The Senate bill is a big step in the right direction. It would make the laws in the Commonwealth fairer by taking substantial steps to end mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses, enable the diversion of people away from prison and jail who do not belong there, protect young people, improve conditions for incarcerated people, and reduce collateral consequences of contact with the criminal legal system. Repealing mandatory minimums would restore accountability to Massachusetts’ criminal justice system by eliminating a system that works differently for different people.
“The signing district attorneys are attacking a bill that would help end over-incarceration and ensure the fair administration of justice. When district attorneys stand only for the status quo, they choose their own power over public safety and fairness.
“We appreciate State Senate leaders’ commitment to meaningful criminal justice reform and we urge the entire Massachusetts Legislature to work toward a better criminal justice system.”
- ACLU of Massachusetts
- Citizens for Juvenile Justice
- Coalition for Effective Public Safety
- Committee for Public Counsel Services
- Digital Fourth Greater Boston Interfaith Organization
- Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice
- Families for Justice as Healing
- League of Women Voters of Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
- Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee NAACP
- New England Area Conference NAACP
- Amherst Branch NAACP
- Berkshire County Branch NAACP
- Boston Branch NAACP
- Brockton Branch NAACP
- Cambridge Branch NAACP
- Cape Cod Branch NAACP
- Martha’s Vineyard Branch NAACP
- Mystic Valley Area Branch NAACP
- Merrimack Valley Branch NAACP
- New Bedford Branch NAACP
- South Middlesex Branch NAACP
- Springfield Branch NAACP
- Worcester Branch National Association of Social Workers
- Massachusetts Chapter National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls Prisoners’ Legal Services
- Union of Minority Neighborhoods