The legislative session just completed realized only two significant bills coming out of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. The first, H. 4811, passed by the legislature on July 16th/17th and signed by the governor on July 24th, created several new sex offenses, increased penalties for other offenses, and codified the ability of the district attorney to obtain certain communication records by subpoena, without the requirement of a court-authorized warrant as required by the fourth amendment to the U.S. constitution. CJPC opposed all of the policies which this legislation embodied.
House Bill 5004, the Judiciary Committee’s version of CORI reform, mandatory post release supervision, and other criminal justice changes, died in the House Ways and Means Committee without ever making it to the floor of the either House or the Senate for a vote. House Chair Representative Eugene O’Flaherty (D. Chelsea) received numerous extensions to report the bill out of the Judiciary Committee, and finally reported it out on July 23rdwith just five working days left in the legislative session. As written by the Judiciary Committee the bill did not command a consensus, and there was not enough time to negotiate the kinds of changes which could have led to a consensus.
CJPC will be meeting with other supporters of CORI reform to map out a strategy to successfully push CORI reform through the next session which formally begins in January, 2009. This just concluded session was the first time that a version of CORI reform was ever reported favorably out of committee, and the first time that a sitting governor came forward to support it. In addition, we expect to continue working with others to relieve the burden of mandatory minimum sentencing and to again address the problems of inadequate pre-release training and post –release supervision.
Massachusetts voters will be afforded the opportunity this November to vote on a ballot initiative which would reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana making it an offense punished by a civil fine, rather than by criminal prosecution as is currently the practice. CJPC has endorsed this initiative; more information on this may be found at http://sensiblemarijuanapolicy.org/. Among other impacts of this legislation should be a decline in the prison population, which currently has made the U.S. the country with the largest number of its citizens incarcerated. See the Pew Center Report: One in One Hundred. We encourage you to talk to others about this direct means of alleviating the overcrowding in our penal institutions.
CJPC appreciates very much your interest and support of criminal justice reform. We hope you will continue involvement in this critical work.
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