The MassCJRC Journal

A Monthly Newsletter from the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
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National Criminal Justice Reform: Is the Pendulum Finally Settling in the Middle?
Over the past 50 years, criminal justice reform has swung wildly between liberal and conservative agendas. The progressive reforms of the 1960s and 1970s (community corrections, delinquency, prevention, etc.) became the "soft on crime" era. This led to the conservative-driven "tough on crime" era, defined by mandatory sentencing laws, longer prison stays at ever-higher levels of security, and an emphasis on punishment over rehabilitation. Suddenly our approach to handling crime took center stage in national (see Willie Horton) as well as statewide (see "reintroduce inmates to the joys of busting rocks") elections.

Over the past 10 years, as conservatives began pushing a different approach, a "right on crime" agenda emerged in states like Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina. These states have pushed sentencing reforms aimed at reducing recidivism, increasing appropriations for drug treatment and corrections programming, creating new reentry models, and stopping the construction of new prisons. Furthermore, as the research reports come in from those states, we have evidence that these reforms actually reduce crime, lower costs, treat people more equitably, and reduce recidivism.

Now, as the links below demonstrate, political leaders in Congress and the executive branch are taking note and developing a remarkable, bipartisan consensus on criminal justice reform. When Senator Rand Paul and Attorney General Eric Holder see eye to eye on a policy issue, any policy issue, it is big news. Ditto Senator John Cornyn (R) of Texas and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) of Rhode Island. So if red states and the federal government are lining up behind reform, it's time for blue states to step up and do the same - in bipartisan fashion.

MassINC made the case in our recent report "Crime, Cost and Consequences" and the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition was created to support a state-wide effort. A new poll by the MassINC Polling Group shows that the public is far ahead of the political establishment in supporting smart on crime reforms.

By early next year, the Commonwealth will have a new governor, Senate president, attorney general, and chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. We hope they will view a bipartisan consensus on these matters as an asset to be deployed in advancing a 21st century approach to crime and corrections.

If you agree, please support the work of the Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. You can join us here.  

GregTorresGrayBG 2
Greg Torres
President, MassINC
Publisher, CommonWealth


In the Media

The New York Times reports on efforts by Republicans across the country to take apart mandatory minimum sentences.

Attorney General Eric Holder endorses a proposal from the US Sentencing Commission that would reduce average sentences for drug dealers by about one year.

The New York Times editorializes in favor of the bipartisian Smarter Sentencing Act introduced by Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and the Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act authored by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). 

The Washington Post outlines investments in criminal justice innovation in Attorney General Eric Holder's new budget proposal.

CNN reports on growing bipartisan consensus around corrections reform. USA Today explores the issue and finds unusual harmony between Republicans and Democrats.

NBC News examines the push to reduce the use of solitary confinement.  

Former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram gives a TED talk on "moneyballing criminal justice" with better data.

NPR looks at the progress and promise of corrections reform in California.

From the Researchers

The Vera Institute releases a new report looking at corrections reform efforts in 29 states. The Urban Institute issued a similar study earlier this year looking at Justice Reinvestment in 17 states.

The March issue of the American Journal of Criminal Justice looks at capturing the positive "collateral effects" of reentry programs.

The National Institute for Justice Journal looks at efforts in other states to replicate Hawaii's Project Hope.
Criminal Justice Review takes apart a decade's worth of research on reentry and finds aftercare and housing assistance are critical.

In the States

The Mississippi legislature sends Governor Phil Bryant a sweeping corrections reform bill.

With a favorable vote from the House, New Hampshire moves a step closer to repealing the death penalty.

The Massachusetts state senate passes a bill to curb the use of constraints for inmates in labor.

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.

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Boston, MA 02108


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