$2 Billion for JOBS, NOT JAILS!
The Patrick Administration has estimated that, if current criminal justice policies are not changed dramatically, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will have to spend $2 billion in the next seven years, to build 10,000 new prison units, as well as $150 million more each year to fill them. Massachusetts already has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world – on par with French Guiana and Kazakhstan. There are so few opportunities, and so many barriers to successful re-entry, that most (>60%) of prisoners released from DYS, county jails, and prison recidivate within 3 years.
Meanwhile, we are sliding quickly away from a full-employment economy. Businesses are shedding entry-level and middle-class jobs at an alarming rate, as many functions such as check-out clerk and warehouse operator are automated. Massachusetts has lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs just in the last six years.
Other states – including New York, Washington and Texas – have overhauled their criminal justice systems using practices that are proven effective, and so reduced their prison populations that they have closed prisons, saving taxpayers billions of dollars.
Our Jobs NOT Jails Coalition is building the infrastructure to engage thousands of people in a campaign to stop $2 billion of prison construction, and re-direct those funds into creating good jobs for people in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods. We just filed omnibus legislation for the reforms listed above as: Justice Reinvestment: An Act to Increase Neighborhood and Safety.
An Act to Increase Neighborhood Safety and Opportunity
Senate Bill 64 House Bill 1429
Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston) and Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester) and 55 co-sponsoring legislators have filed an omnibus bill backed by a large coalition of community, religious, and union organizations to improve Massachusetts’ systems of criminal justice, end mass incarceration, and re-invest in our communities through job and educational opportunity. Included in the bill are:
Criminal Justice Reforms:
Repeal Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences – This would restore judicial discretion in sentencing for drug charges, reducing the risk of longer than warranted prison terms;
Reduce Certain Low-Level Felonies to Misdemeanors – Under this scenario certain offenses (such as shoplifting or other petty theft, or low-level drug charges) would be made misdemeanors, with different sanctions that rely less on long and expensive terms of incarceration;
End Collateral Sanctions at the RMV – This would eliminate the current law allowing the Registry of Motor Vehicles to confiscate the license of a person convicted of any drug offense (even where charges are unrelated to the operation of a vehicle) for up to 5 years and charge at least $500 to reinstate it; and
Extraordinary Medical Placement – This would allow a judge to decide whether a person who is permanently incapacitated or terminally ill should be transferred out of prison for treatment, remaining under state custody.
Bail Reform—though not in this bill, we are also supporting a separate Bail Reform Bill so people are no longer in prison just because they could not raise bail for less serious crimes
Jobs and Schools:
The final sections of the bill establish a Trust fund with the cost savings from these improvements in the criminal justice system. Trust funds will be used to right our unbalanced economy by investing in evidence-based practices including job development efforts for youth, veterans, victims of violence, and other people with significant barriers to employment, and supporting programs that help at-risk youth to stay in school. Programs supported by the Trust will include:
Job training programs to address the skills gaps identified by Massachusetts industry leaders;
Transitional job and pre-apprenticeship programs to prepare people for today’s workforce and place them in good, living-wage jobs; Youth jobs that provide both sustenance and experience; Initiatives to create new jobs through social enterprises, coops, and other businesses; and Evidence-based programs that specialize in drop-out prevention and recovery, giving youth a second chance at academic achievement and setting them on a path to success.
NOTE: Legislators are also filing many of the above sections as separate, individual bills: Mandatory minimums: Sen. Creem and Rep. Swan; Extraordinary Medical Placement: Sen. Jehlen and Rep. Toomey; RMV Collateral Sanctions: Sen. Chandler and Rep. Malia.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
For more info, contact: Steve O’Neill of EPOCA (508) 410-7676 firstname.lastname@example.org
Lew Finfer of MCAN: (617) 470-2912 LewFinfer@gmail.com
Rev. Paul Ford of BWA RevFord@BostonWorkersAlliance.org (617) 955-0559
Elena Letona of Neighbor to Neighbor (617) 997-7503 Elena@N2NMA.org
Rev. Laura Ahart, Black Ministerial Alliance (857) 492-1634