FAMM Applauds Mandatory Minimum Reforms in Legislature’s Sentencing Bill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: July 19, 2012
Contact: Monica Pratt Raffanel,
BOSTON: Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) applauds the reforms to mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws that are part of the sentencing bill passed by the House on July 18 and by the Senate today. The bill, H.4286, includes reforms that FAMM has supported for years: reforming the state’s “school zone” law and making some drug offenders now in prison eligible for the same reentry opportunities – parole, work release and earned good time – that are available to most other prisoners. The bill would also reduce somewhat the length of mandatory minimum sentences and increase the quantity of drugs needed to trigger certain low level trafficking offenses that occur after the bill takes effect.
Barbara J. Dougan, director of FAMM’s Massachusetts project, issued this statement:
“We are gratified to see the legislature building on its 2010 reforms, which made some drug offenders in county houses of correction eligible for parole. This bill provides a good next step. Many drug offenders who are serving disproportionately long sentences may now be able to prove themselves worthy of returning home sooner. We have been flooded with calls from family members who today have cause for hope.”
“During debate on the bill, there was a bipartisan recognition of the need to restructure our system of mandatory drug sentencing laws, not just to adjust them. That has been our position all along. For that reason, FAMM is urging the Governor to send the bill back to the legislature with amendments that would improve it. But regardless of what happens with this bill, we will be back next session fighting for real change. We look forward to continued cooperation with the administration and legislature on this important issue.”
Despite our support for the bill’s drug sentencing reforms, FAMM opposes the changes to the habitual offender law, and in particular the new “three strikes” section. Said Dougan, “We are especially troubled by the lack of any mechanism that would give the courts discretion in specific cases where this law would require an overly harsh sentence. It is inevitable that those cases will arise. For that reason, FAMM is also urging the Governor to send the legislature a ‘safety valve’ amendment. ”
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that supports fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety. In 2008, FAMM launched a project in Massachusetts to reform state mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug and school zone offenses. For more information on our work in Massachusetts, visit http://www.famm.org/StateSentencing/Massachusetts.aspx.