MA Gov Signs Justice Reforms Despite ‘Serious Concerns’

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a sweeping overhaul to the state’s criminal justice system despite having “serious concerns” with some of its provisions, including a controversial change that would forbid parents from testifying against their minor children, the Boston Globe reports. “The law will undoubtedly result in a better criminal justice system and give people across the Commonwealth greater opportunities to turn their lives around,” Baker said. He  immediately filed a bill calling for several revisions, including committing $15 million in the final months of this fiscal year to fund new staff and technology that he said are crucial to meeting its mandates. He also warned that some parts of the law he signed could have “unintended, negative consequences.”

It’s unclear how the legislature will tackle Baker’s requests after lawmakers spent years completing the criminal justice package he penned into law Friday. “In the grand scheme of things, the very positive elements of this bill far outweigh some of the concerns we have,” Baker said. Citing the provision on minor children, a mother who saw her 17-year-old son kill people couldn’t testify against him even if she wanted to, with the only exception being when the victim is a family member and resides in the household. The new law eliminates some mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealing and creates a process for records to be expunged for juveniles and young adults and for convictions for offenses that are no longer crimes, like marijuana possession. The law also decriminalizes some minor offenses for juveniles. It changes the way bail, fines and fees are levied to take into account someone’s ability to pay. It raises the threshold at which theft is considered a felony. It requires more humane conditions for inmates in solitary confinement.

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