The Boston Globe recently published an article about how a Massachusetts legislator, Republican representative Bradford Hill, has changed his views on mandatory minimums for drug offenses.
Rep. Hill is probably seen as a “tough on crime” guy. He filed legislation that led to an habitual offender bill the House passed in late 2011. The bill’s most controversial section would add a new “three strikes” section to the existing habitual offender law, doing away with parole in some cases. He is also one of three House members on the conference committee that is negotiating a final sentencing bill with the Senate. Both mandatory minimum reforms and changes to the habitual offender are on the table.
FAMM met with Rep. Hill in January to talk to him about Massachusetts’ drug sentencing laws. He was welcoming, congenial, and engaged. He was familiar with the Right on Crime movement and clearly had been doing his homework. We left a packet of our Massachusetts materials with him.
So, we were pleased to read about his change of position. The article itself is a little confusing, as it goes back and forth between mandatory minimum reforms and the habitual offender legislation. (And there are six members on the conference committee, not five.) But Rep. Hill’s laudable willingness to be educated comes shining through.
“I’ve come to a conclusion that we do need to change the way we imprison drug offenders. I’ve come a long way from the beginning of this.”We’re not going to take credit for his new views. But we hope we helped.
Hill said that unlike many lawmakers, he is not a lawyer, so when the governor proposed alterations to drug sentences, he paused.
“I was someone who said, ‘Why on earth would I change drug laws?’ That’s why it’s been an eye-opening experience.’’
FAMM Massachusetts Project Director