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Massachusetts new Governor looking at sentencing reform April 15, 2007

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback
It is refreshing to see new officials bringing a healthy new perspective to sentencing issues. According to this Boston Globe article, that’s what’s happening in Massachusetts:
Governor Deval Patrick has launched a comprehensive review of the state’s mandatory sentencing laws, an effort endorsed by the attorney general and the chief justice of the state trial courts to help stop the “revolving door” in the state’s prison system. “People come out more dangerous than when they went in,” Patrick told the Globe last week, explaining his administration’s focus on fundamentally changing the philosophy of the criminal justice system.
Administration officials say that the mandatory minimum sentences, which eliminate judges’ discretion in certain cases, drive up the cost of corrections and make it less likely that prisoners will participate in programs that could help them reenter society when they are released. Because those prisoners cannot get out early for good behavior, critics say, they have little incentive to participate in programs while in prison. And they are barred by law from enrolling in work release, rehabilitation, or furlough programs outside their institution, according to Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, an undersecretary for public safety. Once they wrap up their sentence, she added, they are sent back into society unsupervised.
The effort to revamp these laws is part of a larger administration policy aimed at preparing criminals for life after prison, including changes to a program that allows employers to review the criminal records of potential employees. Without a comprehensive plan to reintegrate the thousands of criminals who get out of Massachusetts prisons each year, Heffernan said, many will return to crime.
Administration statistics indicate that nearly half commit a crime during their first year after release. “The concept of the revolving door — the governor and the secretary want to look at how we stop that,” Heffernan said, referring to Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke. “People are moving away from the breaking-rocks portion of the program. This administration is going to take a more thoughtful and appropriate look at what works and what doesn’t.”
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