Criminal Justice Reform

An Act promoting restorative justice practices – S.847

This bill codifies an option for law enforcement and courts to refer certain offenders to a community-based restorative justice program. Offenders and victims can meet with members of the community to explore the impact of the crime upon the community and agree upon a constructive plan of repair by consensus.

An Act reducing recidivism, curbing unnecessary spending, and ensuring appropriate use of segregation – S.1306

Solitary confinement can cause and exacerbate mental illness, leading prisoners in solitary to attempt suicide at significantly higher rates than those in the general prison population. Prisoners deprived of normal human contact cannot properly integrate into society, which results in higher recidivism rates. This bill would require the creation of appropriate standards prior to placing a prisoner in solitary, decrease extreme isolation, encourage individualized rehabilitation programming, and close mental health monitoring for people in solitary.

An Act relative to the expungement of records of persons falsely accused and juveniles – S.845

This bill provides for the expungement of criminal records of anyone who has been falsely accused.  This change is prompted by two court decisions, Commonwealth v. Tina Boe 456 Mass 337 (2010) and Commonwealth v. Paul Moe (SJC 11124) 463 Mass 370 (2012).  It also includes language that allows for the sealing of youthful offender records and the expungement of juvenile records.

An Act to decriminalize being in the presence of heroin – S.842

Under current state law, it is illegal to knowingly be in the presence of heroin. Arresting people for being with someone carrying heroin presents an unnecessary burden on Massachusetts’ legal system and violates the principle that each person is responsible for his or her own actions, not those of others. Repealing this section of the law would mean that innocent bystanders cannot be arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

An Act relative to privileged communications – S.843

This bill would carve out a narrow mandated reporter exception for social workers and social service advocates who become aware of abuse and neglect involving an attorney’s client while in the course of their work for the attorney.  The exception would cover all information relative to a reportable condition that a social worker or social service advocate becomes aware of in the course of his or her employment as a service legal provider.

An Act encouraging lawyers to practice public interest law – S.1519

This bill creates a tax credit for graduates of Massachusetts law schools who practice public interest law. The amount of the tax credit is the amount the graduate paid in student loan payments during the preceding tax year. It also creates a public service commission to evaluate and categorize public legal services. To be eligible for the credit, the graduate must practice public interest law as defined by the public service commission.

Resolve establishing a special commission on prisoner and correction officer suicides – S.1303

No one should be ignored on either side of the bars. This bill establishes a commission to examine strategies and implement best practices to reduce the instance of suicide rates among prisoners and correctional officers.

An Act relative to training for law enforcement – S.1304

This bill directs the Municipal Police Training Committee to develop and establish within the recruit basic training curriculum a course in civilian interaction and procedural justice for law enforcement officers in regional and municipal police training schools. The course of instruction and the guidelines emphasize crisis, de-escalation, and disengagement tactics and techniques as well as ways to build community trust and maintain community confidence.

An Act establishing retirement parity for long term public defenders – S.1410

This bill classifies attorneys, investigators, social workers, and social service advocates in the public defender division of the committee for public counsel services with ten or more years of service as members of Group 4 of the contributory retirement system for public employees.

An Act promoting use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement – S.1307

This bill requires municipal and state police departments in Massachusetts to acquire and use body-worn cameras, sets standards for the cameras and for policies governing their use, and establishes a Law Enforcement Data Review Committee to oversee retention and analysis of data from body-worn cameras, police stops and police surveillance.