Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Massachusetts Reform Set to Move

Good news in Massachusetts:  Governor Patrick Deval will be proposing a hearty package of sentencing reforms, including mandatory minimum sentencing reforms, in new legislation today:
Mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes that don’t involve guns or children would be repealed, giving more discretion to judges, and certain drug offenders serving mandatory minimums in state prison would be eligible for parole after serving half their maximum sentence, under legislation Gov. Deval Patrick plans to file with his budget Wednesday.
Patrick’s plan will retain mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders who use a gun in connection with the crime and those who exploit children. Offenders convicted of crimes that did not involve violence, who did not possess a gun and who did not target children would become eligible for parole after serving half their sentences.
The governor rolled out the proposal Tuesday afternoon in advance of his annual budget filing, detailing standalone legislation that he will file that also lifts the prohibition on drug offenders from participating in work release programs or earning “good time” credits.
Further, the bill will shrink from 1,000 feet to 100 feet the drug-free zones around schools that trigger harsher penalties for drug violations occurring within those areas, according to an administration official.
All of that sounds good to FAMM:
"On the one hand, this is a bold move by the governor, but on the other hand it’s basic common sense. He’s merely trying to realign our drug sentencing laws so they are in sync with what we know to be true about who is sentenced to prison under the laws and what they need to succeed and not reoffend," said Barbara Dougan, state director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
Nothing is law yet -- this is just the first step.  But clearly, reform is poised to move in Massachusetts.