Senators and Advocates Rally for Criminal Justice Reform Supporters push for bill that reduces incarceration rates and focuses on diversion

BOSTON-On Oct. 12, Massachusetts Senators and criminal justice reform advocates rallied for the passage of Senate Bill 2170, An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform, sponsored by Senator Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont).  The Senators were joined by other elected officials, advocates, and members of the public for a rally at the statehouse.

“This bill is about lifting people up instead of locking people up and about cutting the entanglements that keep people from getting back up on their feet after they have made mistakes.  At the same time it is about protecting public safety and using our law enforcement resources to target our most serious offenders,” said Senator Brownsberger.

“In state after state criminal justice reform has led to lower incarceration rates, lower crime rates, and lower recidivism rates. It is time Massachusetts joins the national let’s get smart on crime movement, protecting public safety while improving outcomes with our precious tax dollars,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).

“I am proud to stand with Senate colleagues and community advocates to show our support for this comprehensive criminal justice bill. Now is the time to bring real, meaningful reform to fruition in our state to reduce unnecessary incarceration and refocus on criminal diversion,” said Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington). “I was especially honored to speak in favor of pre-trial bail reform. Our current system places a disproportionate burden on the poor, the homeless, and people of color. We need to move bail away from a cash-based system because ability to pay bail should never be used as criteria to determine someone’s freedom.”

“Criminal records stay with you for the rest of your life and it’s particularly harmful to young people who already have the highest rates of recidivism. This bill is another solid step for public safety and for youth across the Commonwealth as it would allow for juveniles to expunge misdemeanors from their records and take a clean slate into the workforce and college,” said Geoff Foster, Director of Organizing and Policymaking for UTEC-Lowell, a nationally recognized organization that works with at risk youth.

“As someone who’s worked many years with people who were formerly incarcerated and as someone who has been personally affected, I know firsthand that reforming the justice system is crucial.  I’ve seen too much hopelessness and despair from people who want to move forward from their mistakes,” said Delia Vega, community organizer for Massachusetts Community Action Network.  “As a person of Faith, it pains me see so many people give up, lose hope because of the many obstacles that are placed in their way once they are released and beyond. The senate bill is a good start to tearing down some of those obstacles and we have faith that the house will report out a comprehensive bill as well.”

“Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) supports positive reforms in Omnibus Criminal Justice Bill (S1270) introduced Sep 27 by Judiciary Committee co-chair Sen. Brownsberger and appreciates the need for more work on Mandatory Minimum Drug sentencing,” said Beverly Williams GBIO Criminal Justice Action Team co-chair.

Brownsberger was joined by Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), Senator John Keenan (D-Quincy), Senator Karen Spilka (D- Ashland), Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), Senator Adam Hinds (D- Pittsfield), Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), Senator Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), Senator Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop), Senator Mike Brady (D-Brockton, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Boston), Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senator Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell),  Senator Michael Barret (D-Lexington), Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), Senator Sonia Chang Diaz (D-Boston), Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, SEIU, UTEC-Lowell, Boston Bar Association, Jobs Not Jails, I Have a Future, Families for Justice as Healing, #stuckonreplay,  League of Women Voter, Ex-prisoners and Prisoners Organized for Community Action, Harvard Medical Indivisible,  attorney Pauline Quirion, UUMassAction,  and Citizens for Juvenile Justice.

The Senate Plans to take up the legislation before the end of October.