Bump weighs in on sentencing guideline dispute
Court officials refused to cooperate with her office’s investigation
STATE AUDITOR SUZANNE BUMP released an audit on Thursday that concluded draft sentencing guidelines are being used by judges across the state even though the guidelines have never been enacted by the Legislature.
Bump’s office initiated its audit after the Massachusetts District Attorney Association complained that the guidelines, which incorporate disparate racial and socioeconomic impacts, were improperly being used by judges across the state. The Massachusetts Sentencing Commission approved the guidelines on August 16, 2017, but never sent them along to the Legislature for approval.
“While justice may be blind, the process by which individuals convicted of crimes are sentenced must be plain to see,” Bump said in a statement. “I commend the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission for taking steps to ensure our criminal justice system recognizes disparate racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic impacts when considering sentencing. However, by failing to submit their revisions to the Legislature, it not only denies the body the opportunity to weigh in on the changes it also risks inconsistent use of the guidelines across the Commonwealth.”
The controversy over use of the unapproved sentencing guidelines was the focus of a recent op-ed debate in CommonWealth between attorney Margaret Monsell and Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey. Monsell saw nothing wrong with judges using the unapproved guidelines in an advisory capacity, but Morrissey said they should not be used until and unless they are approved by the Legislature.