The MassCJRC Journal

A Monthly Newsletter from the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
CourtHousePic 2
Governor Patrick Reconstitutes the Sentencing Commission

Governor Patrick has made good on a pledge he made to renew the long dormant Massachusetts Sentencing Commission at the Annual CJRC Event last February, finalizing his appointments late last month. The Commission wasted little time, convening for their first meeting shortly after the positions were announced. Under the leadership of Essex County Superior Court Judge Jack Lu, the 15-member commission is charged with bringing "a critical and data-based lens to the Commonwealth's sentencing practices."


The commission has nine voting members: three judges, three prosecutors, and three defense counsel, along with non-voting representatives from the Executive Office of Public Safety, the Massachusetts Sheriff's Association, the Department of Correction, the Parole Board, the Office of the Commissioner of Probation, and the Victim Witness Assistance Board (see below for a list of the appointees).


This is the second iteration of the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission. The commission was first formed by the State Legislature in 1994 under the "truth in sentencing act." The first chairman, Judge Robert Mulligan, submitted a unanimously approved report to the legislature two years later. The report's recommendations were introduced as sentencing legislation, but the bill failed to pass.


Governor Patrick has reassembled the Sentencing Commission against a backdrop of a loud chorus of calls for reform. The case for reform has clearly been embraced by Massachusetts voters, who want elected officials to rethink how the state punishes criminals. A recent MassINC poll found that most voters now believe the best way to reduce crime is through prevention and rehabilitation, especially for drug users.


Reconstituting the sentencing commission was a major recommendation of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and an important step toward evidence-based Justice Reinvention in Massachusetts.


Winthrop Roosevelt

Director of Public Affairs



Massachusetts Sentencing Commission


Voting Members


Hon. Jack T. Lu (Commission Chairman)

Essex County Superior Court


Mary Alice Doyle

Essex County District Attorney's Office


Hon. Kenneth Fiandaca

Roxbury Div. BMC


Brian Glenny

Cape & Island District Attorney's Office


Hon. Mary Elizabeth Heffernan

District Court Department


Eduardo Masferrer

Masferrer & Associates PC


Dean A.  Mazzone

Office of the Attorney General


John C. Redden

CPCS - Public Defenders Division


Martin Rosenthal

Law Offices of Martin R. Rosenthal

Non-voting Members


Michael Bellotti

President of the Mass. Sheriff's Association


Andrea Cabral

Secretary of Public Safety (EOPSS)


Edward Dolan, Commissioner

Office of the Commission of Probation


Pamela Friedman

Chief, Victims Witness Unit

Norfolk District Attorney's Office


Carol Higgins O'Brien, Commissioner

DOC Central Headquarters


Josh I Wall

Massachusetts Parole Board



On Capitol Hill


US Sens. Rand Paul and Cory Booker are optimistic at their chances of having their proposed Redeem Act pass the Senate this year. The Redeem Act "allows adult records to be sealed for non-violent crimes, erases juvenile non-violent crime records for those under 15 and seals them for those over 15, and encourages 10 states to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, among other mandates," The Hill reports.


US Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. says that he "oppose[s] the use of data analysis in criminal sentencing," the Washington Post reports. Attorney General Holder warns that basing sentences off of unchangeable things is unfair especially to minorities, and that the punishment for a crime must fit that crime, regardless of what crimes the data says might occur in the future.


Eric Holder is out as US attorney general; Deval Patrick insists he is not in, the incessant swirl of rumors notwithstanding. Keller@Large says there are a bunch of reasons Patrick will not become the next AG, but he floated another local name to replace Holder -- Massachusetts US Attorney Carmen Ortiz.


In the States


Tennessee's Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on criminal justice reform. Topics of discussion include reentry programs, probation and parole reform, and reduction in recidivism rates.


WLTZ reports that criminal justice reform enacted by Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia, which was "aimed at rehabilitating nonviolent offenders and tackling the inflating costs of incarceration," has lowered rates of African-American entrance into prisons by 20 percent.


The New Jersey State Assembly passes a bail reform package that aims to "curb a long-standing injustice faced by poor people and, disproportionately, by people of color who are often held in jail for months, and even years, not because they are dangerous or likely to flee, but because they can't afford bail."


The New York City Council's criminal justice committee votes unanimously in favor of a bill which would mandate that the Department of Correction publish quarterly reports detailing "how many inmates are placed in solitary, what they're sent there for and how long they stay, and whether they attempt suicide or are physically or sexually assaulted," the New York Daily News reports.


A Texas bipartisan coalition for criminal justice reform called the Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition debuts as a way to keep advancing a reform agenda months ahead of the 84th Legislature. According to the Texas Observer, "the state still prides itself on a tough-on-crime reputation, but recently the Legislature has rebuffed efforts to increase criminal sentences, and has provided sentencing alternatives for a range of crimes."


The Lens takes a look at Louisiana's juvenile justice system and the way that it has, and has not, kept up with the sweeping reforms that were passed by the Louisiana Legislature back in 2003.


New York City Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte says that he will end the use of solitary confinement for adolescent inmates by 2015, the Huffington Post reports. He also says that he wouldn't oppose a call for the 16- and 17-year-old inmates at Rikers Island to be removed from the island completely.




The Boston Globe explores the cost of keeping aging inmates behind bars long past the point of them presenting a public safety risk. The editorial page argues that the release of terminally ill prisoners is compassionate - and logical.


A new wonder drug called Sovaldi is giving hope to those with hepatitis C - and nightmares to those charged with reining in health care costs. CommonWealth reports on why the state prison system is not prescribing it due to cost restraints.


A bid by the Patrick administration to cut spending on legal services for the indigent falls flat, CommonWealth reports.


Chief Justice Roderick Ireland reflects on his 45-year legal career.


Massachusetts Courts are wrestling with how to try cases involving juvenile offenders who are arrested and charged years or even decades after the crime they are charged with committing.


In the Media

The Washington Post reports that the federal prison population has dropped for the first time in three decades. US Attorney General Eric Holder reported that, in fiscal 2016, "the federal prison population is projected to drop by 10,000 inmates, or the equivalent of six federal prisons."


The Washington Post examines the punitive effects of the criminal justice system and its role as a barrier to employment in America.


In the Huffington Post, Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services, writes that the plethora of depictions of violence in the media shows the monstrosity of the criminal justice problem that our country faces, but she also says that the media attention may finally prompt the real overhaul that the criminal justice system needs.


From the Researchers


The National Academies Report released an expansive report on how a dramatic increase in incarceration has failed to clearly yield large crime-reduction benefits for the nation. The report recommends that policymakers take steps to reduce the nation's reliance on incarceration.


Institutionalized disparities in the criminal justice system may be self-perpetuating. A study published by the Association for Psychological Science found that "exposing people to extreme racial disparities in [a] prison population heightened their fear of crime and increased acceptance of the very policies that lead to those disparities".


In a survey conducted by The Pew Research Center, 70 percent of African Americans believe that African Americans are treated less fairly than whites in their dealings with police. This number is significantly higher than the 37 percent of white people who believe that African Americans are treated less fairly than whites in their dealings with police. 

The Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition is a group of prosecutors, corrections practitioners, defense lawyers, community organizers, and businessmen and women working together to reform the Massachusetts criminal justice system. MassINC supports the work of the Coalition with research, polling, communications and outreach.

11 Beacon Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02108


Facebook   Twitter   LinkedIn