The Massachusetts House of Representatives is poised to take a giant step toward comprehensive justice and corrections systems reforms when they debate H4011, An Act to Reform Criminal Justice, scheduled for November 14 and 15.
Our House Reps need to hear that we strongly support criminal justice reform and that we cannot continue to incarcerate our way out of social and public health problems.
Call your state representatives on Monday, November 13. If you get voicemail, leave your name and a message with the talking points below.
- Representative Timothy Whelan (Barnstable Precinct 1; Brewster Precincts 1, 2; Dennis; Yarmouth Precincts 1, 2, 3, 4, 7)
- Representative Sarah Peake (Brewster Precinct 3, Chatham, Eastham, Harwich, Orleans, Provincetown, Wellfleet, Truro) Tel. 617-722-2040
Note: neither representative was reportedly involved in drafting this legislation.
SCRIPT / TALKING POINTS
“My name is _____. I am a constituent of Rep._____. I am calling to urge Rep._____ to support H 4011, An Act to Reform Criminal Justice, during the House debate and vote this week. This Omnibus Bill will bring much needed comprehensive reform to our state’s justice system.”
“Please support amendments that would more closely align the House with the Senate version of the bill, for instance, amendments that would raise the age at which youth are tried as juveniles to 19 and would raise the felony larceny threshold from $250 to $1500 (not $750)
- If passed, the bill will reduce the staggering number of incarcerated people, help insure humane treatment and reduce recidivism.
- The current system wastes too much money and destroys too many lives.”
“What is the Rep.’s position on the bill?”
“I will be watching to see how Rep. ____ votes on this bill, and share that information with my circle of friends in town. Thank you.”
The United States has a higher percentage of persons incarcerated than almost any other country in the world. Our justice system has been riddled with provisions like “mandatory minimums” for drug convictions, which eliminate all prosecutorial discretion. Moreover, African-Americans and other minorities are disproportionately targeted by our justice system, contributing to income inequality and other unfair outcomes.
To address these problems, the Massachusetts Senate passed S. 2185, the Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform bill, on Oct. 26, the culmination of years of work by advocates and legislators. Among other things, this bill:
- Repeals mandatory minimums for lower-level drug offenses
- Raises the felony larceny threshold from $250 to $1500, in keeping with other states
- Significantly reduces the use of solitary confinement
- Raises the age of being tried as an adult to 19
- Reduces the unnecessary entanglement of young people in the criminal justice system, including decriminalizing disturbing a school assembly
- Reduces fees and fines that trap people in a cycle of poverty and recidivism
- Expands eligibility for diversion to drug treatment
- Provides for medical release of people who are incapacitated or mentally ill
The House introduced its own version (H4011) which needs work but still has considerable merit. It is this legislation that is being debated this week.
- Bill H401: An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H4011
- Ryan Moore, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, 2011 https://www.amazon.com/New-Jim-Crow-Incarceration-Colorblindness/dp/191212887X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1510487233&sr=8-2&keywords=mass+incarceration+the+new+jim+crow
- Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, 2014 https://www.amazon.com/Just-Mercy-Story-Justice-Redemption/dp/081298496X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510487794&sr=8-1&keywords=bryan+stevenson
- Radio Boston with Meghna Charkrabarti, Nov. 10, Peter Edeleman on the Criminalization of Poverty http://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2017/11/10/peter-edelman
- Massachusetts Senate Approves Sweeping Criminal Justice Reforms Bill Repealing Mandatory Minimums http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/10/massachusetts_senate_approves_16.html
Some copy taken from the advocates at Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network (End Mass Incarceration Together task force) https://endmassincarcerationtogether.wordpress.com/
Thanks also to Althea Schoen of the LCI Issues Team for this Call to Action.