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Dear Neighbors,

On October 26, after 13 hours of debate and consideration of 162 amendments, the Senate passed a comprehensive criminal justice bill, which the Globe called "a model" for the country.  

The bill's passage was due to months of work by Judiciary Chairman Will Brownsberger, listening to concerns and building consensus on difficult issues. His blog is an excellent source for understanding many of those issues.  

Next week, the House will consider its own version of criminal justice reform.  If you think there are things in the Senate bill that should be preserved or changed, please contact your state representative.  And let me know.

This newsletter is in two pieces. This one has brief summaries of the necessity for action.   The next one, following shortly, discusses many of the provisions of the Senate bill.
Massachusetts' rate of incarceration is 2nd lowest in the country, but if we were a country we would have among the highest rates in the world.  This slide from MassBudget shows that our total rate of incarceration in 2010 had grown to 3 times what it was in 1980; and it was 4 times what it was 40 years ago.  
This chart shows the increase in drug offenders, due largely to longer sentences.

Increased incarceration means we're spending more on corrections, while we've been cutting funds for other important programs, many of which would be more effective at cutting crime -- and incarceration.  For example, 2001-2016 we cut early education and care by $146 million and increased corrections spending by almost the same amount.

The good news is that changing policy makes a difference.  In 2012, we reduced mandatory minimum sentences for many drug offenses, by up to one-third. For drug offenders who were already in prison, many became eligible for parole, work release and earned good time.  These changes have reduced the number of people in prison.  (The top chart shows the drop in all prisoners; the bottom chart is only drug offenders.)  They didn't increase crime rates, which are at the lowest point in 50 years.

Does the corrections system succeed in correcting behavior?

There are many ways to measure recidivism.  The Council of State Governments' reports that 2/3 of those leaving county House of Correction facilities and more than half of those leaving state Department of Correction facilities in 2011 were rearraigned within 3 years.

Is the system fair?

The Boston Bar Association reports that "Blacks are incarcerated at 8 times the rate of whites, and Hispanics are incarcerated at 5 times the rate of whites... the Hispanic/white disparity in MA was the highest in the nation, and the black/white disparity ranked 13th." 

Most people in jail haven't been convicted

More than half the people in county facilities -- 1/4 of all those incarcerated, about 5,000 on any day -- are awaiting trial.
Very soon you'll receive another email about the Senate bill.  I thought it would be good to break this report into two pieces.
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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