FAMM Hails Judiciary Committee Move to Advance Parole Eligibility Bill

For Immediate Release

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
Contact: 

Monica Pratt Raffanel, media@famm.org

FAMM Hails Judiciary Committee Move to Advance Parole Eligibility Bill

BOSTON - Embracing the national trend toward cost effective and evidence-based
policies on crime, Massachusetts’ Joint Judiciary Committee has
advanced a bill that would expand parole eligibility for drug
offenders, addressing one of the worst injustices created by mandatory
minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.  The legislation,
introduced by Sen. Cynthia Creem, has been reported favorably to the
Senate for further consideration.

 

Sen. Creem
commented, “This is a bill that has been a top priority of mine for
several years.  I am very pleased by this development, and I look
forward to continuing to work both on shaping a final bill and on
convincing other legislators that the time is right to make this
sensible reform a reality.”
 
Barbara J.
Dougan, FAMM’s Massachusetts project director, issued the following
statement:  “FAMM applauds Sen. Creem, Rep. O’Flaherty and members of
the Judiciary Committee for keeping sentencing reform on the front
burner.  Reform of the state’s mandatory minimum drug laws is long
overdue.  Sen. Creem’s bill, S.1651, will save taxpayers millions by
allowing currently incarcerated drug offenders to apply for parole,
rather than serve their entire sentences, which are often longer than
sentences for violent crimes.  The state’s top law enforcement
officials have spoken out about the need to improve access to reentry
programs such as parole for drug offenders and to reserve expensive
prison space for dangerous criminals.  This bill does not guarantee
that anyone will be granted parole; the Parole Board will still make
that decision.  Instead, it affords deserving drug offenders the same
re-entry opportunities that are available to most other prisoners.  It
will also reduce prison overcrowding, a dangerous situation for both
correctional officers and inmates.”
 
S.1651
would allow prisoners convicted of certain drug offenses to apply for
parole after they serve two-thirds of the maximum sentence imposed, if
that is less than their mandatory minimum sentence.  Currently, drug
offenders convicted under these laws cannot apply for parole regardless
of their situation at the time of the offense, such as need for drug
treatment or no prior record.  The bill applies to those who are
currently incarcerated, as well as those sentenced in the future.  Said
Dougan, “This bill would allow drug offenders who pose no threat to the
public to more successfully transition back to the community.  Under
supervision from the Parole Department, they can become productive
wage-earners and support their families.”
Significant reform of Massachusetts’ mandatory
minimums cannot come fast enough for FAMM members like Bonnie DiToro,
now serving her 11th year of a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for a
drug offense.  Struggling with cocaine addiction after her husband
died, Bonnie became involved with her supplier.  When he was arrested
during a drug transaction, Bonnie was also arrested, although she was
not directly involved.  Bonnie was convicted of drug trafficking and
because Massachusetts’ rigid mandatory minimum drug laws consider no
factors except the weight of the drug involved, the judge was forced to
sentence Bonnie to a mandatory sentence of 15 years.  It currently
costs the state around $47,000 a year to keep this mother of two behind
bars.  Bonnie would now be eligible for parole under this proposal.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is a national nonpartisan,
nonprofit organization that works to ensure that the punishment fits
the crime.  In 2008, FAMM launched a project in Massachusetts to reform
state mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug and drug-free zone
violations.

 

To read profiles on people serving mandatory minimum sentences in Massachusetts, or for more information on FAMM, visit
www.famm.org
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