Posted on April 4, 2018
By Michael P. Norton, State House News Service
BOSTON – Without dissent, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a broad package of criminal justice system reforms Wednesday that lawmakers said would begin to shift focus toward rehabilitation and substance use treatment and away from punishment in an effort to reduce recidivism.
Sen. Jamie Eldridge says the likely next phase in the justice reform movement, assuming the bill win’s Gov. Charlie Baker’s approval following a review period, will be holding the Baker administration accountable for implementing justice reforms.
“This is a bill that’s been decades in the making,” Eldridge said, touting the bill’s inclusion of bail reforms, changes to solitary confinement and adjustment to policies governing inmate fees and fines.
“This bill represents a renewal for addicts who will be diverted for treatment rather than locked up” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain.
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said the bill promotes DNA evidence collection measures and will improve municipal police training.
The “balance” in the bill, he said, is due in part to the proposed creation of minimum mandatory sentences for fentanyl and carfentanil trafficking, a practice that is driving a tide of opioid overdose deaths.
The bill was before the House at 2 p.m. and an approval vote is expected in that branch soon.