Legislators seek to bar judges from sending drug users who relapse to jail

Last summer, the state’s highest court ruled that judges could continue to order jail time for defendants who violate probation by using drugs, dismaying public health advocates and addiction specialists who had hoped to revolutionize the way the criminal justice system treats people with substance use disorders.

Now, they are asking the Legislature to do what the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court would not: Prevent courts from incarcerating defendants who are in treatment and fail a mandatory drug test while on probation.

“Given what we know about substance use disorder and how relapse is very often part of the trajectory of treatment, the thought of someone going to jail for failing a drug test just felt very egregious to me,” said state Senator Cindy F. Friedman, an Arlington Democrat who sponsored the legislation.

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Mass. Panel Recommends One Or More Supervised Consumption Sites To Reduce Opioid OD Deaths

Massachusetts should test the use of clinics where drug users can shoot up or inhale drugs, and be revived by medical staff if needed, because such clinics save lives. That’s the gist of a recommendation to state lawmakers that will be included in a report due later this week.

State Sen. Cindy Friedman said many people aren’t convinced that bringing illegal drug activity into a medical clinic is a legitimate way to fight drug use. Friedman supports the idea but said candidly that she still wrestles with it herself.

“I’m not necessarily comfortable with safe consumption sites, it doesn’t exactly fit in with my repertoire,”Friedman said after the commission meeting where she proposed the final language for the recommendation. “It isn’t about me. It’s about what is going to work to address this emergency.”

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A single comment made Mayor Walsh rethink supervised injection sites

Boston Globe

Now a member of the state’s Harm Reduction Commission, charged with recommending new ways to tackle addiction and the opioid crisis, [Marty] Walsh recently traveled to Montreal and Toronto in January with Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern and toured injection sites in both cities. He came back largely convinced that operating supervised injection sites responsibly and without neighborhood chaos was at least possible, and worth a very close look for Boston.

“Having sat with him on the committee, I’ve experienced an opening, a willingness, to engage in the conversation. And a real effort to understand something that is foreign to a lot of people,” said Cindy Friedman, a state senator from Arlington who serves with Walsh on the Harm Reduction Commission. “He opened himself up…That’s what it means to take this epidemic seriously.”

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Mass. lawmakers want to extend antidiscrimination laws to venture capitalists

Boston Globe

Massachusetts law prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination. But there’s a loophole: Those laws generally don’t apply to perpetrators who are investors, or potential investors, in a company.

That can be a problem for workers in a significant swath of Boston’s booming economy. In technology, biotech, and other fields seeded by venture capital and private equity, outside investors hold extraordinary power over the careers of entrepreneurs, who have little recourse if they’re mistreated.

Now, a group of lawmakers on Beacon Hill is pushing legislation that would subject investors to the same civil discrimination and harassment laws that apply to employers. The bill’s lead sponsor, State Senator Cindy F. Friedman, an Arlington Democrat, noted that the vast majority of venture capital in the United States now goes to white, male founders.

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Harassment in venture-capital industry targeted

BOSTON — A state senator is looking to amend the laws protecting against discrimination and harassment in the workplace to ensure they cover entrepreneurs seeking funds to start a business. 

The #metoo movement and other instances of women sharing stories of their experiences have prompted a new focus on sexual harassment in industries from Hollywood to restaurants to politics and pushed many workplaces, including the state Legislature, to revisit their policies on reporting and preventing harassment. 

Friedman, an Arlington Democrat, said she spoke with constituents who are active in the venture capital community and have experienced harassment. She decided to tackle the issue, filing a bill to broaden the state law prohibiting harassment and discrimination against employees.

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New bill could prevent jail time for relapse in Massachusetts

bill before the Massachusetts Legislature could prevent people with substance use disorder from being sent to jail only for relapsing. If the bill is enacted, people diagnosed with substance use disorder who are on probation or are pretrial would be diverted to treatment and prohibited from being drug-tested.

Massachusetts Senator Cindy Friedman, who is a co-sponsor of the bill and chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, said drug-free court orders unfairly punish people for a normal condition of substance use disorder that is bound to appear on the path to recovery: relapse.

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Lowell-Burlington shuttle buses to be launched soon Lowell Sun

LOWELL — A new shuttle service connecting Lowell and Burlington is launching after four years of collaboration among state and local leaders. The Middlesex 3 Coalition, in collaboration with a number of government officials, and the Chambers of Commerce in Lowell and Burlington are hoping with funding now in place, the service can begin in the coming months.

Aside from Gordon, Cronin said the project received tremendous support from state Reps. Dave Nangle, Tom Golden and Rady Mom, and Sen. Cindy Friedman.

“Burlington has such a vibrant local economy and a wide variety of successful businesses,” Friedman said in a press release. “This program will be another opportunity for those businesses to access the workforce they need to succeed, ultimately strengthening our local and regional economies.”

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Bail trends under scrutiny as new panel eyes reforms WBUR

BOSTON (SHNS) – More than a year after the state’s high court ruled judges setting bail must consider a defendant’s ability to pay, state officials are embarking on an examination of the bail system in Massachusetts that will consider measures including potential impacts of eliminating cash bail.

A massive April 2018 criminal justice reform law made a series of changes around bail, in keeping with a high court decision in the 2017 case Brangan v. Commonwealth.

Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington and Rep. Claire Cronin of Easton co-chair the commission. On Thursday, at the panel’s first meeting, members outlined what data and information they hope to delve into during their study.

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Essex, Suffolk sheriffs ask to join addiction treatment program for inmates Boston Globe

Essex and Suffolk counties plan to join five other counties in a pilot program providing medications to opioid-addicted inmates, a sign that correctional officials’ resistance to the treatments may be yielding to public pressure and legal action in Massachusetts. A federal district judge last month ordered Essex Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger to provide methadone to a prospective inmate, saying that failing to do so could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The sheriffs’ request was welcomed by state Senator Cindy F. Friedman, chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery. Friedman said she suspected the Essex suit was a “driving force” behind the request, but the motivation doesn’t matter. “I’m completely happy about it,” she said.

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Friedman Backs Bill To Extend Unemployment Benefits Burlington Patch

On Monday, December 3, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voiced her strong support for the nearly 1,250 Massachusetts workers and their families that have been impacted by the National Grid lockout. In a mass email to constituents, Friedman said she has been in regular contact with National Grid and the United Steel Workers Unions regarding the ongoing contract negotiations and remains “troubled that National Grid has been unable to put forward an agreeable contract, and am frustrated by reports of continuous safety violations on gas lines.”

“I fear that National Grid is using the expiring unemployment benefits to unjustly improve their bargaining position, thus preventing the negotiation of a fair contract,” Friedman said. “By preventing a trained and qualified workforce from returning to work, National Grid has placed citizens across the Commonwealth who rely on this public utility at risk. That’s why I believe it is appropriate for the state to intervene on behalf of the locked out workers, and I intend to support these pieces of legislation to ensure that a fair contract can be negotiated.”

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