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Please Help Sentencing Reform in Massachusetts

Last fall, prompted by a series of articles in the Boston Globe entitled "Overdosing on the Drug War," a raging discussion erupted in Massachusetts on the use of mandatory minimum sentences. Legislation was filed to allow judges to bypass the mandatory minimums, which would in effect repeal them, and the legislature took up the subject of how much they could reduce Governor Weld's prison construction bill, also attaching the mandatory minimum reform to that bill.

The legislature has since caved in and removed that legislation from the prison bond bill. But the story isn't over yet. The Massachusetts Sentencing Commission may be making recommendations this spring, for the first time, on the mandatory minimums and alternatives. Governor Weld vetoed the legislation that enables the Sentencing Commission to examine the mandatory minimums, but the legislature may be overriding the veto, possibly as soon as Monday 2/26.

Please write to the Sentencing Commission and urge them to repeal the mandatory minimum sentences and restore discretion to judges. Address your letters to:

The Sentencing Commission will be holding public hearings at the followings days and locations:

Fall River
Gardner Auditorium, State House
City Hall, Room 218
Westboro District Court
Middlesex Community College
Bristol Community College

Hearings are scheduled from 5:00pm to 7:30pm. If you want to sign up to testify, call Clare Duffy, Executive Assistant to the Sentencing Commission, at (617) 742-6867. (Public comment should be by mail or fax, however.)

Please also write to your state representatives and Senators. Urge them to repeal or reform mandatory minimum sentences, to restore judicial discretion and refocus our criminal justice priorities; and urge them to make the reforms retroactive. Send your letters to:

Or you can call your legislators (or find out who they are) through the State House switchboard at (617) 722-2000. In addition, all Mass. State Representatives have e-mail addresses; you can look them up at http://www.magnet.state.ma.us/legis/legis.htm; this page has links to directories by name and by town. The Senate doesn't have e-mail yet.

To get more involved in New England sentencing reform, including meeting with state legislators, or for help on your letters or testimony, call Marie Russo, (617) 289-7042, or Nancy Brown, (603) 436-7861, Massachusetts and New England coordinators of the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). New England FAMM will be meeting monthly starting in March.

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