Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Politics of Prison Sentencing

Last Tuesday (June 9th), during a public hearing, Beacon Hill lawmakers met to debate mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses.  These laws create a set minimum amount of time judges must mandate for crimes and cannot reduce even in extenuating circumstances. This debate is not new to the Commonwealth, in 2012 legislators passed a bill reducing mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenders as part of the “three strikes” provision – however it still remains a contentious topic.

Those who advocate for mandatory minimum sentences have argued minimum sentencing laws have helped reduce drug-related crime both in Massachusetts and the nation as a whole.  Suffolk County District Attorney, Dan Conley, has stated he believes the public would not benefit from a reduction in minimum sentencing but criminals would.

Attorney General Maura Healey and opponents to minimum sentencing laws, however, disagree. In a letter to lawmakers Healey wrote, “History shows we cannot incarcerate our way out of this public health crisis, and we need smart reforms that will allow us to focus on treatment for those we are most able to help.”

In 2014 the MWPC endorsed candidate Maura Healey in her run for Attorney General. She has since won her election and begun to work for the Commonwealth.