As co-chairmen of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus, we applaud Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants for his powerful call to end mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses.
As anyone can tell from the opiate crisis affecting every Massachusetts community, the data are disturbing. Though the number of prisoners locked up for drug offenses in the U.S. has increased from 38,000 in 1970 to over 500,000 today, drugs are cheaper and more available than ever. Simply put, mandatory minimums don’t work and are not protecting the public. The days of “tough on crime” policy are numbered, and the “smart on crime” approach has started to take hold in a bipartisan manner across the country in states including Texas, California and Rhode Island. A MassINC 2014 public opinion poll showed 89 percent of the public opposes mandatory minimums in Massachusetts.
We are encouraged that this session, legislation filed by state Sen. Cynthia Creem and state Rep. Ben Swan to repeal mandatory minimums has over 70 co-sponsors, including Republican legislators. It is the Legislature’s responsibility to re-examine these laws and reform our criminal justice policies, including eliminating mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses this legislative session.
Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton
Rep. Tom Sannicandro, D-Ashland