Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has started a comprehensive review of the state mandatory sentencing laws, says the Boston Globe. The effort is endorsed by the attorney general and the chief justice of the trial courts to help stop the “revolving door” in the prison system. “People come out more dangerous than when they went in,” Patrick told the Globe, explaining his administration’s focus on fundamentally changing the philosophy of the criminal justice system. Officials say mandatory minimum sentences, which eliminate judges’ discretion in certain cases, drive up the cost of corrections and make it less likely that prisoners will participate in programs that could help them reenter society when they are released.
Because those prisoners cannot get out early for good behavior, they have little incentive to participate in programs while in prison. They are barred by law from enrolling in work release, rehabilitation, or furlough programs outside their institution, said Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, an undersecretary for public safety. Once they finish their sentence, they are sent back into society unsupervised. Without a plan to reintegrate the thousands of criminals who get out of prison each year, Heffernan said, many will return to crime. Administration statistics indicate that nearly half commit a crime during their first year after release.