Senate Passes Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform

Bill rewrote mandatory minimums and addressed crimes committed by young people to prevent school-to-prison pipeline, among other measures

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Wednesday to pass a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that works to reduce recidivism and divert minors away from incarceration and toward rehabilitation, among other measures.

“Many factors influence who goes to prison, beyond something as simple as a routine traffic stop. From the number of public defenders available to serve the accused to the number of clinic beds available for those who need substance abuse treatment instead of jail time, there are inequalities built into the system and they have long needed a fix,” said Senator Lesser. “This bill took that step, to make our justice system more just, and I am grateful to our local law enforcement, public defenders, advocates and District Attorneys for their input in this ongoing effort.”

The bill, S. 2371 An Act relative to criminal justice reform, strengthens protections for public safety officers in addition to improving prison conditions such as reducing the use of solitary confinement. Among some signature elements of the bill, reforms include expanding judges’ discretion in setting bail amounts and lowering fines and fees in an effort to help defendants get back on their feet and transition successfully back into society.

The bill also strengthens sentencing on the trafficking of opioids such as fentanyl, which has emerged as a leading and dangerous cause of the worsening of the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. It designates all federally scheduled opioids as class A drugs, triggering stricter trafficking penalties.

The compromise bill has already passed the State House of Representatives and now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature.