Monday, December 17, 2012

Mass. Monday: Changing the Guard, but not the Mission

As FAMM’s Massachusetts members know, Gov. Deval Patrick announced last week the resignations of four members of his cabinet, including the Secretary of Public Safety and Security, Mary Beth Heffernan.

While the players may change, we know that the Governor remains committed to sentencing reform – and FAMM plans to make the most of that commitment during his final two years in office. FAMM has had the pleasure of working closely with Secretary Heffernan and members of her staff over the last few years. We are sorry to see her go. Here is the statement we released following the Governor’s announcement:
“The most significant improvements to the state’s drug sentencing laws in over 30 years were accomplished under Secretary Heffernan’s leadership. The benefits from those reforms will be felt for years and for that, we are immensely grateful. In addition, we found the Secretary to be open and accessible, which is invaluable for non-governmental advocacy groups like ours. She was willing to listen to our views on sentencing reform and, in turn, was able to give us useful feedback based on her understanding of the various components of the criminal justice system. We expect to have the same kind of productive relationship with Sheriff Cabral as she assumes her new role.”
Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral will replace Mary Beth Heffernan as Secretary of Public Safety and Security. FAMM is delighted by the selection of Sheriff Cabral, given her strong support for sentencing reform. She was one of the contributors to our 2011 report, “Voices for Reform: 30 Years of Mandatory minimum in Massachusetts.”  In her piece, Sheriff Cabral described her experiences as a former prosecutor:
“I thought that mandatory sentences would provide some level of deterrence and give prosecutors a meaningful opportunity to temporarily put mid-level drug dealers out of business. I was wrong.”
Friends and foes come and go in every movement for change. In this situation, FAMM is glad to work with two good friends of sentencing reform, Secretary Heffernan and Sheriff Cabral.

Barb Dougan
Massachusetts Project Director