MA Newspaper: The Time Has Come For Sentencing Reform


In an editorial, the Fall River, Mass., Herald News criticizes the Massachusetts House for its failure to adopt “modest” criminal sentencing reforms approved by the Senate. The paper says, “Mandatory minimum sentences enacted in the 1990s were driven by politics, not smart criminal justice policy. Getting ‘tough on crime’ and clamping down on soft judges seemed like a good idea at the time, but in practice, it has meant drug addicts get little or no post-release supervision. Their addictions go untreated; they are ineligible for work release programs that help them get a fresh, legal start on the rest of their lives. They finish their sentences and are dropped back into the same neighborhoods they left – and too often fall into the same old patterns of crime and substance abuse.”

The paper continues, “If the goal is to reduce crime, the state should go back to practices that work. Give treatment to drug addicts. Give education to prisoners who have no means to earn an honest living. Release prisoners on parole, with officers keeping track of them after release and a sentence still in place so they can be put back behind bars the first time they break a rule. It costs taxpayers more than $40,000 a year to keep a convicted criminal in prison. Even states that pride themselves on being tough on crime are reforming their sentencing laws to save money through effective alternatives to long sentences. South Carolina recently became the 17th state to reform mandatory minimums. Massachusetts should join them.”

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