Criminal justice

Senator Friedman is taking the lead on the following bill that was originally filed by the late Senator Ken Donnelly at the start of the 2017-2018 legislative session:

S834 An Act reforming pretrial process

  • Summary: The Commonwealth has no standard process in place to assess the risk a defendant poses while awaiting trial – either the risk of not returning for a scheduled court date or the risk of committing a crime while out on bail. Instead of being based on risk, the system is based on the affordability of bail. Consequently, many low-risk pretrial defendants are spending unnecessary time in jail, oftentimes because they are too poor to afford their bail amount. Meanwhile, other pretrial defendants, even those that may pose a danger to society, get released simply because they can afford their bail. Not only does this system have a disparate impact on poor people and people of color, but it also costs the state millions of dollars per year to jail citizens for days, weeks or months while they await trial. This bill would establish an informed and objective risk-based release process, moving the Commonwealth away from a cash-based bail system to a system where the court would determine whether a person is likely to return to court based upon an objective risk assessment tool. To accomplish this, the bill proposes four major reforms: (1) develop and use a validated risk-assessment tool designed to predict a defendant’s probability of returning to court; (2) create a uniform process for bail decision-making that involves the validated risk assessment tool as well as release recommendations proposed by a newly created Pretrial Services Division; (3) allow the Pretrial Services Division to compile risk assessment information, implement release decisions and track results to inform future decisions and statistically improve the risk assessment process; and (4) severely limit the use of cash bail.

Senator Friedman has co-sponsored the following bills relative to criminal justice in the 2017-2018 legislative session:

S755 An Act restricting fine time sentences

  • Summary: This bill would prohibit justices of trial courts from committing a person to a prison or place of confinement solely for non-payment of fines.

S770 An Act providing community-based sentencing alternatives for primary caretakers of dependent children who have been convicted of non-violent crimes

  • Summary: This bill would allow any non-violent defendant who is the caretaker of dependent children to request that the court have their criminal sentence be a community-based alternative sentence. This alternative could include drug and alcohol treatment, parental counseling, and a selection of other programs.

S777 An Act to reduce the criminalization of poverty

  • Summary: This bill would allow for the non-prosecution of citizens that are unable to pay certain mandatory fines and fees that have resulted from non-criminally related activity.

S819 An Act to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences related to drug offenses

  • Summary: This bill would eliminate mandatory minimums for those convicted and incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes.

S877 An Act updating the wrongful conviction compensation law

  • Summary: This bill would update and expand upon the services and compensation provided to someone wrongfully convicted.

S907 An Act to prevent human trafficking and sexual exploitation in bodyworks establishments

  • Summary: This bill would establish a board of registrars to oversee the practices of bodyworks operations in the Commonwealth. The board would be tasked with developing a regulatory framework concerning the practices and business dealings of these operations.

S944 An Act relative to sealing of juvenile records and expungement of court records

  • Summary: This bill would allow anyone charged with a juvenile crime that amounts to less than $550 in damages to request that the court seal the criminal records related to the crime.

S1296 An Act to promote humane conditions of confinement

  • Summary: Massachusetts is one of a few states that allows prisoners to be placed in solitary confinement for up to 10 years for disciplinary infractions. This bill would reform the use of solitary confinement in Department of Corrections facilities as well as county jails and houses of corrections.

S1681 An Act relative to the collection, accuracy and public availability of arrest data

  • Summary: The state currently lacks sufficient data regarding arrests in the Commonwealth. This bill would call for Massachusetts to promote proactive transparency about key issues to inform policy-making. This bill would require the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to collect arrest data from law enforcement agencies across the state and make the data available to policymakers and the public.