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Dear Neighbors,
Last Thursday, ten senators held a press availability to talk about our priorities for criminal justice reform this session.  Among the issues we raised were: pre-trial detention and bail reform, juvenile justice, community corrections, decriminalization of minor offenses, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses, reducing solitary confinement, and medical release for terminally ill and disabled prisoners.

Here is video of the press conference from the State House News Service: I speak about community corrections and medical release at 25:51
Here's FOX News coverage.
And the Boston Globe
and  MassLive.
This week, a bipartisan task force reported on its work with the Council of State Governments.
The report, which represents consensus among the governor, Senate President, Speaker, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, has led to a bill filed by Gov. Baker which will likely be taken up with broad support this year.

The report and bill focus on reducing recidivism, using evidence-based program changes.  Recommendations include increased programming during incarceration, eligibility for earning good time, and more access to behavioral health. 

Recidivism is an important issue: 2/3 of people leaving county Houses of Correction and half of those leaving the Department of Correction are rearraigned again within 3 years.  We can certainly do a better job of "correction."

Massachusetts does have one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country, but MassINC has reported that the proportion of the MA population incarcerated is triple what it was in the 80s.  Our rate is 3 times that of China (!) and Canada, and five times higher than Germany. 

Prison Policy Initiative reports that while white MA residents' incarceration rate is half the national rate for whites, black residents' rate is about 2/3 the national rate, and Hispanics are actually incarcerated at a rate 12% higher than nationally.
The Senate bills highlighted above are other ways to increase public safety, save money, and help individuals have more productive lives.
These are some of my bills related to criminal justice:

SD1718: medical placement of terminal and incapacitated inmates
There's an increasing number of inmates who are aging and terminally ill.  This bill would allow terminally and irreversibly incapacitated inmates to be transferred to a nursing home or hospice without the need for 2 armed guards 24/7.  It would save money and the federal government would share half the cost.  Massachusetts is one of only a few states that don't have this provision.
  Here's a link to several recent articles and a Globe editorial in support.  The bill passed the Senate last session.  We'll try again this year.
SD1781 would decriminalize non-violent and verbal student misconduct

This ACLU report, Arrested Futures, found that in Springfield, Boston and Worcester, many students were arrested for misbehavior that could have been more appropriately handled by school discipline.  Students of color and special needs students were disproportionately arrested.
SD2045 would update the wrongful convictions compensation law

Lawyer Johnson was the last man on Massachusetts' death row.  He spent 10 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, but he left prison with no compensation or assistance.  His story made me work to pass the wrongful convictions law 12 years ago.  I expected people being released after being exonerated would get help in transitioning to life in freedom.  But it can take up to 3 years to receive compensation.  So some settle for very little in order to receive money they need quicker. 
Here for example is the story of Angel Echevarria.  And stories from Huffington post and the Globe about Kevin O'Loughlin's wait for compensation.  I've filed legislation to raise the cap and provide more timely compensation.  Here are reports from WGBH and MassLive, and recent editorials from the Globe  and New York Times.
SD1927 Requires the governor to consider for pardon and expungement individuals convicted of marijuana offenses that are no longer crimes
SD1575 An Act relative to the use of community corrections
More than half the people in county correctional facilities aren't convicted; they're awaiting trial.  Most of them need mental health or substance abuse treatment and don't get it.  Meanwhile there is excess capacity in community corrections centers, which provide treatment and allow people to keep their jobs and homes. This bill, supported by the sheriffs, the courts, and probation, would allow a judge to send a person awaiting trial to receive services and programming at a community corrections center.  It passed the Senate last session and is one of the actions recommended by the Task Force.
SD1619 An Act relative to larceny
Our $250 threshold for larceny as a felony rather than a misdemeanor is the 3rd lowest in the country and hasn't been updated in 20 years.  A misdemeanor in all other New England states is a felony here, with the collateral consequences that attach to felony convictions.  The bill raises the threshold to $1500.

Copyright © *Committee to Re-Elect Pat Jehlen, All rights reserved.

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CTE Pat Jehlen, 67 Dane St, Somerville MA 02143

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