RALLY TO STOP 3-STRIKES LAWS IN MASSACHUSETTS
Community Rally to Stop the 3-Strikes Bill
Urgent Action for Criminal Justice Reform
Rally & Lobby Day
State House Steps
Thursday, March 15
- Tell your Reps and Senators to stop the 3-Strikes bill
- This dangerous bill will expand an overcrowded prison system
- It costs $48,000 a year to jail a prisoner; these funds could be used for jobs, schools, housing and transportation
- Incarceration breaks apart families but does not deal with the real causes of crime
- Stand up against mandatory sentencing and demand fairness in the criminal justice system
Help stop this costly and harmful bill before it is too late: the “Justice System” is Unjust and the time for action is now! We will rally on the State House steps and then enter the building to visit our elected officials.
To endorse the rally, please go to: www.tinyurl.com/stop3strikes
Endorsing Organizations (partial list)*
Aid to Incarcerated Mothers, Alternatives for Community Environment (ACE), American Civil Liberties Union-MA, American Friends Service Committee, APIA Movement, Arise for Social Justice, Arlington Street Church (Social Committee), Artists for Humanity, Asian American Resource Workshop, Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts, Blackstonian, Boston Workers’ Alliance, Cambridge Peace Commission, Center for Church and Prison, Chelsea Collaborative, City Life / Vida Urbana, Coalition Against Poverty / Coalition for Social Justice, Coalition for Effective Public Safety, Codman Square NDC, Community Change Inc., Community Church of Boston, Community Labor United, Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, Dorchester People for Peace, EPOCA - Ex Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Gavin House, Grove Hall Neighborhood Development Corporation, Hyde Square Task Force, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, Jobs With Justice, Lansing Workers Center, Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, Marcus Garvey House, Mass Alliance of Minority Law Enforcement Officers (MAMLEO), Mass Jobs with Justice, Massachusetts Communities Action Network, Mass Global Action, Mass Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR), MassUniting, NAACP New England Area Conference, National Association of Social Workers-MA, National Lawyers Guild-MA, Neighbor to Neighbor MA, Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE), New England United for Justice, Nuestra Community Development Corporation, Occupy The Hood Boston, Oiste Latino Civic Engagement Organization, Partakers, Inc., Prisoners’ Legal Services, Right to the City Alliance Boston, Rosie’s Place, Roxbury Dorchester Labor Committee, SEIU 1199 Healthcare Workers, SEIU 615 Janitors and Security, Side-by-Side Community Circle, Sisters At Work, Social Workers for Peace and Justice, SPAN, STRIVE, Inc., Students for Sensible Drug Policy, TFCC-Boston, Northeastern University School of Law chapter, Survivor’s Inc., The Real Cost of Prisons Project, Union of Minority Neighborhoods / MARC, Unite Here! New England Joint Board, United for Justice With Peace, Urban League of Eastern Mass, UU Mass Action, Voices of Liberation, Young Cape Verdean Club
*Endorsement list is growing
Articles on Stop 3-Strikes Campaign:
Proposed ‘three strikes’ bill draws community ire
Bay State Banner, 1/5/12
A group of black activists is working on a statewide campaign to defeat a controversial bill that they say would impose harsh mandatory sentences on nonviolent offenders and increase the state’s prison population.
Backers of Senate Bill 2054 — known as the three strikes law — pushed for its passage after the December 2010 slaying of a Woburn Cop by parolled career criminal Dominic Cinelli.
The premise of the proposed law is simple: People convicted of three violent felonies would become ineligible for parole or reductions in sentencing for their third conviction and would receive the longest mandatory sentence for that conviction.
Additionally, anyone convicted of three felonies would be classified as a habitual offender and required to serve two-thirds of their sentence before being eligible for parole.
The details in the legislation are what have many in the black community worried.
For example breaking and entering into a car and other similar crimes are counted as violent felonies under the legislation. And the legislation also calls for post-release supervision of all convicts upon completion of their sentencing.
The net effect of the law would be an increase in the prison population and a substantial increase in the, cost of maintaining Massachusetts’ prison and criminal justice systems, according to the Rev. George Walters-Sleyon, director of the Center for Church and Prison.
“This particular three-strikes bill has serious implications for the community and does not provide any mechanism for rehabilitation,” he said.
In addition, Walters-Sleyon says, the bill would cost the Commonwealth at least $125 million per year in salaries for additional probation officers to implement post-release supervision. And that’s on top of the $47,000 a year Massachusetts spends on each inmate in its prison system.
“We only spend $10,000 annually for K-12 education,” he said. “In Roxbury and Dorchester you have schools being closed and programs being closed. The three strikes law is counter-productive.”
Saturday, Walters-Sleyon and other activists will be meeting at the Dudley Branch of the Boston Public Library at noon to discuss strategies to defeat the legislation, which has already passed in the Senate and House.
In the House vote, only 12 legislators — including all eight members of the Black and Latino Caucus present — voted against the bill. Now, Black and Latino Caucus members are reaching out to their colleagues, urging them to withdraw support for the legislation.
“The bill came through the House so fast, no one had time to digest it and find out what it was about,” said 5th Suffolk District Rep. Carlos Henriquez, who represents Dorchester and part of Roxbury in the House.
Henriquez attributes the success of the bill to lobbying by families of murder victims. Political pressure from family members of Woburn cop John McGuire and his fellow officers focused the public’s attention on the state’s Parole Board, which had voted to free Cinelli in 2009.
“The system is run by humans,” Henriquez says of the Parole Board. “There are going to be problems with the system. But the Parole Board is not known for being lenient.”
The legislative fix — creating mandatory sentences for violent offenders — casts too wide a net, argues Cornell Mills, a community activist who is helping plan Saturday’s community meeting.
“It takes the power away from the judge and leaves it up to a statute,” he says. “Judges are trained to look at each case and decide them on their merits.”
At the meeting Saturday, activists will focus on ways to persuade legislators to withdraw their support for the legislation, which is now in a conference committee.
Black and Latino Caucus members will ask Gov. Deval Patrick to veto the bill when it gets to his desk, but the House can easily override the governor’s veto with a two-thirds vote.
Community activist Jamarhl Crawford notes that the number of votes will have to increase from 12 to 55 to stop the veto override.
“There needs to be a public outcry,” he says. “This is an election year for state legislators. They want to show they’re tough on crime.”
Boston, Globe Letter to the Editor
Boston Workers Alliance, Aaron Tanaka
While states such as California are scrambling to reduce prison populations and spending, Massachusetts cannot afford to rush into a three-strikes regime. We should leave the power of harsh sentencing to the judges, not some automatic system that disregards the details of the offender, the wishes of the victims, or the evidence of rehabilitation. We can be smart on crime by tackling drug addiction, fighting poverty, improving reentry services, and challenging a culture of violence. Beating our chests and promoting Draconian and unthinking laws only reveals the Legislature’s tendency for political pandering over sensible solutions. They did the right thing with criminal-records reform last year. Let’s not turn back the clock on our own progress.
Don’t rush ‘three strikes’ before getting all the facts on crime
Boston Globe, EDITORIAL
January 03, 2012
IT IS just over a year to the day since Domenic Cinelli, a recently paroled prisoner, murdered a Woburn police officer in the course of an armed robbery. Cinelli had a 35-year history of violent crime and, prior to his release, was serving three concurrent second-degree life sentences. However, legislation proposed on Beacon Hill designed to prevent a reoccurrence of this tragedy may have unintended consequences.
To prevent hardened criminals like Cinelli from getting back on the streets, the Legislature is considering a “three-strikes’’ law that would deny parole or any reduction in time served to felons who have been convicted three times of any of almost 60 serious felonies. It would also bump up the amount of time that “habitual offenders,’’ those who have been convicted of any three felonies, would have to serve before being eligible for parole, from half of their maximum sentence to two-thirds.
The bill, at least in the version that has passed the state Senate, also contains reforms intended to balance out the anticipated increase in the prison population. It would shrink drug-free school zones, areas in which harsh mandatory minimum sentences apply, from within 1,000 feet of a school — which is virtually everywhere in an urban area like Boston — to 500 feet. It would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession, with retroactive effect, allowing some prisoners to be freed immediately.
However, the legislation’s overall effect on the number of prisoners in Massachusetts is unclear. Prisoners’ Legal Services estimates that, if enacted, it would impose up to $125 million a year in extra corrections costs. Further, there are no data to indicate how many of those ensnared by the three-strikes law will be petty offenders as opposed to the hardened criminals the bill targets — let alone a statistical measure for how many drug deals happen 499 feet from a school rather than 501.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Commission is set to release a sweeping review of statewide criminal justice policies in March. Lawmakers should wait the three months for that panel’s recommendations and then examine criminal sentencing in light of all the relevant statistics. There is no need to rush the patchwork adjustments in the current legislation.
But legislators need not sit idly by until the commission issues its report. They should act quickly to pass one section of the bill into law, which mandates that the Parole Board use a computerized risk-assessment tool to help determine which prisoners are likely to reoffend. Had it been in place in 2008, it would have likely prevented Cinelli’s release.
Aside from this simple measure, the Legislature should take its time to carefully study and comprehensively overhaul criminal sentencing. Three strikes may be a good pitch to voters, but state legislators need to be sure that the bill is hitting its target.
Charles C. Yancey
Boston City Councillor
For Release Wednesday, February 9, 2012
Councillor Yancey asks City of Boston to oppose Massachusetts’ three strikes proposal
Boston City Hall (February 9, 2012) – Boston City Councillor Charles C. Yancey yesterday presented to the Boston City Council a resolution, urging the Patrick Administration to explore the social and economic impacts of proposed three strikes, habitual offender, laws in Massachusetts.
Three strikes laws (a metaphor from baseball) are statutes enacted by state governments in the United States that impose life sentences to persons convicted of two or more serious criminal offenses. Nearly 30 states currently have some form of habitual offender laws.
Councillor Yancey, noting that the City of Boston stands to be directly impacted by decisions made at the State House, thanked community leaders for raising the level of awareness of the proposed three strikes laws in Massachusetts. “I don’t believe the City Council should remain silent. I am concerned that we’re going to close the doors on far too many people who, otherwise, may have an opportunity to receive treatment and rehabilitation,” he said.
Councillor Felix Arroyo, calling three strikes laws “bad policy,” urged the Council to take a unanimous stance against any measure that would condemn nonviolent people for life. Arroyo argued that the number of violent offenders is very small. “There’s a big difference between someone who is evil enough to assault a person or take a life, and someone else that is just making some bad choices and running with the wrong crowd,” he said. “I want this Council to be strong in stating that there are people who we believe can be saved. There are people we believe can be productive members of society,” he said.
Councillor Tito Jackson said he favored sentencing reforms that would eliminate discriminatory drug laws and costly prison sentences of nonviolent offenders. “I’d like to thank Councillor Yancey for bringing this issue fourth. I believe it’s a timely one,” he said.
Councillor Ayanna Pressley, who cited the failed three strikes legislation of California, said she envisions prison reform laws that would include access to treatment programs, mental health services, as well as employment training and employment placement. “We should demand a bill, which eliminates mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders,” she added.
Councillor Matt O’Malley, who previously served as director of legislative affairs for Suffolk County Sherriff Andrea Cabral, said he was very familiar with Suffolk County’s over crowded prison system. “The Council can and should play a role in [three strikes] conversation,” he said.
Yancey, who has attended thousands of funerals of innocent victims of crime and violence, said he did not subscribe to the concept of coddling criminals. “I’m talking about dealing with this issue in a smart way; not in a manner in which we’re going to do more harm than good,” he said.
Councillor Yancey’s resolution was referred to the Committee on Public Safety, which is chaired by Councillor Michael Ross, who commended Yancey for initiating the three strikes conversation on the Boston City Council and who expressed his willingness to deliberate the issue. “For the City of Boston to remain silent on this matter would be a problem,” he said.
Opponents of Massachusetts’ three strikes bill include the Massachusetts Legislative Black and Latino Caucus in the Massachusetts House, as well as the Nation of Islam, the NAACP, The Center for Church and Prison; Boston Workers Alliance, Boston’s Citywide Outreach Ministries, and the Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers.
Yancey said the Boston City Council has a responsibility to communicate with politicians at the state level its concerns regarding the impact of three strikes laws. “I don’t think there is anyone on this body that would like to see hundreds of people warehoused in our prisons, when what they really need is drug and alcohol treatment programs,” he said.
One City Hall Square • Boston • Massachusetts • 02201 (617) 635-3131
Boston City Councillor Charles C. Yancey
Resolution opposing proposed 3-strikes bill in Massachusetts
WHEREAS: Three strikes laws are statutes enacted by state governments in the United States which require the state courts to impose a life sentence (usually with the possibility of parole) to persons who have been convicted of two or more serious criminal offenses. Twenty-seven states currently have some form of habitual offender laws; and
WHEREAS: Because Three Strikes Laws disproportionately impact African-Americans and Latinos far more than white criminals, the laws are deemed to be unfair and discriminatory; and
WHEREAS: The rationale for decreasing crime through mass incarceration of violent offenders will ensnare the non-violent, the petty criminal, the drug dependent, and the mentally ill at an escalating cost of $47,000 per year; and
WHEREAS: Nearly 700 crimes in Massachusetts currently count as felonies, including breaking and entering, assault and battery on a police officer, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and unarmed robbery; and
WHEREAS: The Three Strikes proposal in Massachusetts, which supports massive long-term incarceration, will subsequently exacerbate an already over-crowded prison system and lead to an increased burden on Massachusetts’ tax payers; and
WHEREAS: Boston, like many other cities and towns is under increasing financial pressure to maintain a balance between the provision of basic neighborhood services and to fulfill labor contract obligations that include salary and wage increases, health care costs, pension investments, and other benefits for city employees; and
WHEREAS: Scarcity of resources has led to city budget constraints, thereby, causing: public school personnel lay-offs; inadequate environmental maintenance of city owned facilities; the closing and merging of public schools and community centers; as well as, downsizing and uncertain futures within departments, such as, libraries, police, and fire; and
WHEREAS: Opponents of the three strikes bill include the Massachusetts Legislative Black and Latino Caucus in the Massachusetts House, as well as the Nation of Islam, the NAACP, The Center for Church and Prison; Boston Workers Alliance, Boston’s Citywide Outreach Ministries, and the Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers; Be It Therefore
RESOLVED: That the Boston City Council, in meeting assembled, urges Governor Deval Patrick and the 187th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts thoroughly review and publish the findings of the social and economic impact that the proposed 3-Strikes Habitual Offender Bill may have on all Massachusetts’ cities and towns if passed and enacted.