Senate retreat to hear from criminal justice experts

Senate retreat to hear from criminal justice experts

Speakers will address ‘key facts and issues’

LEADERS OF THE SENATE, including President Stan Rosenberg and William Brownsberger, the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, have made clear their support for a range of criminal justice reforms that go beyond those in legislation that resulted from a recent review of state policy focused on recidivism.

On Wednesday, senators will hear from criminal justice experts whose research may provide a foundation for broader reform of state policies. Brownsberger has organized an all-day, closed retreat for senators at the UMass Club on Beacon Street, where they will hear presentations from 15 to 20 speakers.

The idea is to give senators “a common understanding of some of the key facts and issues” facing the state’s criminal justice system, said Brownsberger, a Belmont Democrat.

Brownsberger declined to identify any of the speakers or organizations that would make presentations. He also emphasized that the session is not focused on any specific bills that lawmakers might be considering.

“The goal is not to resolve any particular legislative questions but to give a more common background for the senators to discuss issues further,” he said. “My hope is that everyone will feel that it’s a useful informational session and that it will help them in the future as they consider particular proposals.”

In January, Gov. Charlie Baker introduced legislation that would allow inmates, including some of those convicted of drug charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences, to earn “good time” credits that would shave time off their sentences. It also includes funding for services for inmates during their incarceration and after their release aimed at reducing their odds of returning to prison.

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Natasha Ishak

Editorial Intern, CommonWealth magazine

About Natasha Ishak

Natasha Ishak is the editorial intern at CommonWealth magazine. Her duties include reporting and writing on the latest policy issues happening on Beacon Hill.

Before arriving at CommonWealth Magazine, she worked as a digital intern under NOVA/PBS at WGBH. She was a reporter in her hometown of Jakarta for four years, writing up stories at The Jakarta Post - Indonesia's oldest leading English-language daily, and as a production assistant on the popular news program, the Indonesia Morning Show.

Now in her second year pursuing a master's degree in journalism at Emerson College, she hopes to shed light on marginalized communities through stories related to politics, immigration, social justice and the environment.

About Natasha Ishak

Natasha Ishak is the editorial intern at CommonWealth magazine. Her duties include reporting and writing on the latest policy issues happening on Beacon Hill.

Before arriving at CommonWealth Magazine, she worked as a digital intern under NOVA/PBS at WGBH. She was a reporter in her hometown of Jakarta for four years, writing up stories at The Jakarta Post - Indonesia's oldest leading English-language daily, and as a production assistant on the popular news program, the Indonesia Morning Show.

Now in her second year pursuing a master's degree in journalism at Emerson College, she hopes to shed light on marginalized communities through stories related to politics, immigration, social justice and the environment.

The bill, which grew out of a lengthy review of state policies conducted by the nonpartisan Council of State Governments, enjoys wide support and appears to be on an easy path to passage. But a number of senators, including Rosenberg and Brownsberger, want to see the Legislature go much further in its reform of the criminal justice system. Among the issues senators are advocating are elimination of many mandatory minimum sentences and changes to policies that impose a range of so-called “collateral consequences,” such as costly probation and parole fees charged to offenders and legal barriers to housing and employment that advocates say make it harder for those coming out of prison to get back on their feet and avoid reoffending.

A lot of the tough-on-crime policies enacted in the 1980s and 90s may have made sense at the time and may be “individually defensible,” Brownsberger wrote in February. “Yet, taken together, the burdens imposed by the system are crushing for individuals who have made mistakes and destructive to social cohesion generally,” he said.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    What’s with all the secrecy? The “all-day, closed retreat” should be open to interested members of the public or the proceedings recorded & made available on the state’s website or reporters should to allowed to attend so the public can share in the information presented. We’re definitely talking about future legislation. That shouldn’t come about behind closed doors.