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Contact: Michael Avitzur
Director of Government Relations

BBA Urges Repeal of Mandatory Minimums for Non-Violent Drug Offenders

As the Massachusetts Senate prepares to debate an Act to Protect Public Safety, a proposal that deals with parole reform, habitual offenders, and sentencing, Boston Bar Association President Lisa C. Goodheart issued the following statement:

"We are disappointed that the draft bill, in its current form, is aimed at reducing rather than repealing mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders, and in this regard, we believe that it does not go far enough. 

Public safety is not enhanced by mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.  We can promote public safety by a sensible approach that favors treatment over incarceration for these offenders, especially since mandatory sentences mean that these offenders will likely return to the community without developing the tools they need to successfully reintegrate into society.  Criminal justice reform legislation should include sentencing reform for drug offenses.  The draft Senate sentencing bill is an opportunity to implement meaningful and sensible change in this area by eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Repealing mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders is sensible, fiscally responsible and far more protective of public safety than a system which relies on mandatory incarceration and ineligibility for positive programs and parole considerations."

For over two decades, the Boston Bar Association has encouraged discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the Commonwealth's criminal justice system, especially with regard to sentencing reform and prisoner re-entry.  The BBA has issued four major reports addressing the issue of mandatory minimum sentencing:  "Drugs and Justice: A System Abandoned" (1989), "Drugs in the Community: A Scourge Beyond the System" (1990), "The Crisis in Corrections and Sentencing in Massachusetts" (1991) and "Parole Practices in Massachusetts and Their Effect on Community Reintegration" (2002).

The Boston Bar Association traces its origins to meetings convened by John Adams, who provided pro bono representation to the British soldiers prosecuted for the Boston Massacre and went on to become the nation’s second president. Its mission is to advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, facilitate access to justice, serve the community at large and promote diversity and inclusion.