FAMM testifies in Mass., releases new report, “Voices for Reform,” with essays by Delahunt, Gertner, Cabral, Ziemian and others


Date: September 20, 2011
Contact: Monica Pratt Raffanel, (202) 621-5044 or Barbara Dougan, (617) 543-0878

BOSTON:  Today Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) will testify before the legislature’s Judiciary Committee in support of bills to reform or repeal harsh “one size fits all” mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenses.

Barbara J. Dougan, director of FAMM’s Massachusetts project, said, “Our prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom are serving disproportionately long sentences.  Courts must be allowed to impose sentences that fit the crime, so that addicts and low level players are not getting the same sentences as kingpins. Taxpayers should not be stuck with the enormous cost of unnecessary or overly long prison sentences for those who do not deserve them.  Many other states are revising their drug sentencing laws, proving that it’s possible to protect public safety and taxpayers’ wallets at the same time.” 

Click here http://www.famm.org/Repository/Files/DOUGAN%20TESTIMONY%209-20-11.pdf to download Dougan’s testimony (PDF).

At today’s Judiciary Committee hearing, legislators will hear testimony on several bills to reform or repeal harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.  Governor Deval Patrick’s proposal would repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes that don’t involve violence, guns or children, allow certain nonviolent drug offenders serving mandatory minimums in state prison to be eligible for parole after serving half their maximum sentences, and allow drug offenders to be eligible for work release and earned “good conduct” credits.

The Governor’s bill would also reduce drug-free “school zones” from 1,000 feet of a school to 100 feet, the same as for parks and playgrounds.  As a result, the school zone law, which currently carries a two to 15 years mandatory sentence, will fulfill its original intent to protect children.  As it is now written and enforced, it serves mainly to add a second penalty for those who live in urban areas.

In addition, FAMM drafted two bills that were filed by Sen. Steven Tolman and Rep. Benjamin Swan. The bills would repeal all mandatory minimums for drug offenses, allowing the courts to impose sentences that fit the crime.  Like the Governor’s bill, FAMM’s bills would also allow drug offenders to be eligible for parole, work release and earned good conduct credits.  FAMM’s bills would also reduce school zones to 100 feet of a school. 

Michelle Collette, a former state prisoner who served a mandatory minimum sentence, will also testify. Collette became addicted to Percocet and sold drugs to support her addiction until she was arrested.  She then faced 15 to 20 years in prison for a nonviolent offense, the same maximum sentence as for manslaughter or attempted murder.  As the result of a plea bargain, she served seven years in prison, giving birth to her son while incarcerated. Collette said, “I agree that ‘if you do the crime, you do the time.’ But we need to ask, ‘How much time?’ Mandatory minimums don’t let us ask that question and that’s wrong.”

Click here http://www.famm.org/Repository/Files/COLLETTE%20TESTIMONY%209-20-11.pdf to download Collette’s testimony (PDF).

Mary Ann Frangules, head of the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR), will also testify in support of sentencing reform bills, describing the role of addiction and the need for treatment.  According to Frangules, “Drug addiction is behind much of the crime that harms our communities and fills up our prisons.  Yet after 30 years of mandatory and often lengthy sentences for drug offenders, we are no better off. Treatment is what’s needed to get to the root of the problem and to break the cycle of recidivism.”

To coincide with the Judiciary Committee hearing, FAMM also released a new 20-page report, “Voices for Reform: 30 Years of Mandatory Minimums in Massachusetts,” which features essays from Massachusetts experts who have decades of experiences in criminal justice or addiction treatment and who recognize the urgent need for sentencing reform:  

Andrea Cabral, Suffolk County Sheriff
Matilde Castiel, physician and addiction expert
Bill Delahunt, former District Attorney and U.S. Congressman
Maryanne Frangules, drug treatment advocate
Nancy Gertner, former federal judge
Linda Sullivan, mother of a state prisoner who is serving a mandatory minimum sentence
Robert Ziemian, Massachusetts drug court judge
Author Dennis Lehane, who provided an introduction to the report.

Click here http://www.famm.org/Repository/Files/Voices%20for%20Reform%20Report%202011.pdf to download “Voices for Reform: 30 Years of Mandatory Minimums in Massachusetts” (PDF).

Dougan said, “Mandatory minimums have now been on the books in Massachusetts for 30 years.  That sad milestone needs to be acknowledged.  We have three decades of evidence that our current drug sentencing policies are a failure. Regardless of the number of people who are sent to prison on a mandatory sentence, there’s no corresponding decrease in either drug offenses or drug addiction. We hope that legislators will find this new report helpful.” 

FAMM is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to insure that the punishment fits the crime.  In 2008, FAMM launched a project in Massachusetts to reform state mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug and school zone offenses.  

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


Families Against Mandatory Minimums is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supporting fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety. For more information on FAMM, visit www.famm.org or contact Monica Pratt Raffanel at (202) 822-6700 or media@famm.org.


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