You can attend one of our free, open-to-the-public meetings and learn more about sentencing reform in Massachusetts. Please RSVP by contacting Massachusetts Project Director Barb Dougan at (617) 543-0878 or by email at email@example.com (include your phone number, just in case there's a last-minute change or update).
Or, tune in to our live Facebook chat with Barb on November 15 at noon and again at 7 p.m. EST.
And if you just can't stand to wait another second for Mass. sentencing news, here's the text of Barb's letter to the editor in The Boston Globe today, regarding the mistakes made recently at the state drug lab:
The more we learn about the state drug lab mess, the worse it gets ("Two drug lab officials out in wake of chemist scandal," Page A1, Sept. 14). But there's a larger policy issue here that needs to be addressed. For the most part, Massachusetts' drug-sentencing laws are based on the weight of drugs involved in an offense, rather than what a person actually did. This has to change.
Whether someone must be sent to prison, and for how long, too often depends on weights that are measured in mere grams - a Sweet'N Low packet weighs one gram. These same laws require mandatory minimum sentences, one-size-fits-all penalties that are often disproportionate to the seriousness of the crime.
It doesn't matter whether the person was a kingpin or a low-level player, enjoyed the profits or sold drugs to feed her addiction, is a hardened criminal or did one stupid thing. Sentences are predetermined by drug weights alone, and everyone pays the same price, as do taxpayers who foot the hefty bill.
The drug-sentencing reforms that were signed into law last month were a step in the right direction. But they still maintain a system of mandatory sentences that prevent individualized punishment. Mandatory minimums for drug offenses must be repealed.
Barbara J. Dougan