On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed the controversial 3-Strikes Bil that has been held in committee since 2011. While the version that passed was significantly improved due to the advocacy of many organizations, the 3-Strikes provisions are still in-tact and represent an approach that is more severe than California’s failed 3-strikes law.
TELL GOVERNOR PATRICK TO VETO
A growing number of organizations are calling on Governor Patrick to VETO this regressive law. Please call / email Governor Patrick today, Monday or Tuesday!
SCRIPT: ”I’m contacting the Governor to urge him to VETO the 3-Strikes Bill. 3-Strikes will add to our prison crisis. We should invest in jobs, education, housing and health, not more prisons and jails.”
Call Governor Patrick hotline: 617.725.4005
Email Governor Patrick:
3-STRIKES BILL FACTS
The 3-Strikes Bill is a dangerous proposal that takes us backwards in our criminal justice policy. See below for key features of the newest version of the bill.
3-Strikes Law: The 3-strikes law has been narrowed to include 46 crimes (instead of 67). These offenses will only count as a strike if the offender received 3 years or more of incarceration for the specific conviction. If a person is convicted of 3 offenses on the
list, and was sentenced to 3 years or more for each of those offenses, then on their 3rd “strike” will receive the maximum sentenced allowed for that crime with no possibility of parole. This law is harsher than in California because Massachusetts does not allow the judge to exempt a person from their 3rd strike, if they believe it is an exceptional situation.
Mandatory Post-Release Supervision: Mandatory post-release supervision has been removed from the bill, which is a victory for our communities. Mandatory post-release supervision was a costly proposal that attempted to place prisoners returning with 1 year of incarceration or more under mandatory parole supervision. Instead of expanding the number of people on parole, we should reform the parole system to improve its jobs and housing services for the ex-prisoners under their current supervision.
School Zones: The bill includes a positive proposal to reduce the school zones from 1,000 ft to 300 ft. This will decrease the number of drug offenses that are charged as “school zone” violators.
Mandatory Minimum Reforms: This bill makes some positive changes to mandatory minimum sentencing, but does not go nearly far enough. The proposal would allow non-violent drug offenders serving mandatory minimum sentences to become parole eligible after serving 2/3rds of their sentence. Additionally, some mandatory minimum drug sentences have been lowered.
While some of these proposals move in the right direction, the 3-Strikes provision prevents us from embracing these other reforms. This bill is NOT BALANCED and should not be endorsed by the Governor. Tell the Governor to VETO this bill and propose a progressive criminal justice package in 2013.
See a recent report from Harvard Law School “Three Strikes: The Wrong Way to Justice” for analysis of the dangers of 3-Strikes policies: http://www.
WHO VOTED WITH US?
See which State Reps and Senators voted against the 3-Strikes Bill. Send them a thank you call or email to recognize their NO vote against 3-strikes.
H. 4286 On acceptance of conference committee report (139 YEAS 14 NAYS 3 N/V)
Senate on Acceptance of Conference Committee Report JULY 19, 2012 (31 YES- 7 NO)
This update was produce by the Boston Workers Alliance, using updates
from Coalition for Effective Public Safety (CEPS), Senator Chang-Diaz
and Center for Church and Prisons.
ARTICLES RELATING TO 3-STRIKES VOTE
Massachusetts House of Representatives approves 3 strikes bill for
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
By Dan Ring, The Republican (Springfield)
BOSTON — The state House of Representatives on Wednesday
overwhelmingly approved a bill that eliminates parole for three-time
violent offenders, cuts a list of mandatory minimum sentences for drug
offenders and reduces the size of a school zone for certain drug
An habitual offender initiative – called “three strikes” – includes 40 crimes.
The House voted 139-14 to approve the bill. The bill now moves to the Senate.
“I think it is a great bill,” said Rep. Angelo J. Puppolo, a
Springfield Democrat and supporter. “It targets the worst of the
habitual offenders. We want habitual offenders off the streets and off
the streets for good.”
Reps. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera and Benjamin Swan, both Springfield
Democrats, voted against the bill.
In a speech, Swan said the bill falls short because it fails to
eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses.
Swan said a disproportionate number of inmates in Massachusetts are
black or Hispanic. “We have a long way to go to deal with the system
we are attempting to deal with,” said Swan.
The bill would eliminate the possibility of parole for felons
convicted three separate times of serious violent crimes ranging from
murder to child rape to certain types of assault.
Felons would have to be sentenced to at least three years in state
prison for one of those crimes to qualify as a strike on their record.
The bill was spurred partly by the killing of Woburn patrolman John
Maguire on Dec. 26, 2010 by released convict Dominic Cinelli, who was
serving three concurrent life sentences when he was placed on parole
in early 2009.
“Take a moment and think of the victims, the victims’ families, the
people who have to live with the crime,” said Rep. Donald H. Wong, a
Republican from Saugus, who supported the legislation.
The bill changes a so-called “school zone” violation that carries a
two-year mandatory minimum sentence for possessing an illegal drug
with intent to distribute. Right now, the violation occurs if the
crime is committed within 1,000 feet of a school, no matter if school
is in session. The bill changes the zone to 300 feet and says the zone
violation does not apply between midnight and 5 a.m.
Rep. Eugene L. O’ Flaherty, a Chelsea Democrat and a top author of the
bill, said the current 1,000 feet has resulted in an unfair
application of a criminal sentence depending on where the crime occurs
in the state.
“You can’t stand anywhere in my district and not be in a school zone,”
O’Flaherty said. “If you’re in Worthington, you can stand in
Worthington and you probably will not be in a school zone.”
Both the House and the Senate approved versions of the bill last year.
A six-member House-Senate panel worked for eight months to develop the
compromise bill, which was released on Tuesday.
According to a summary of the bill, 16 mandatory minimum sentences for
drug violations were reduced. A mandatory minimum for trafficking
between 36 grams to less than 100 grams of cocaine, for example, was
reduced from 5 years to 3.5 years.
A mandatory minimum for trafficking in more than 100 pounds but less
than 2,000 pounds of marijuana was reduced from 3 years to 2 years.
Leslie Walker, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of
Massachusetts, said she was disappointed by the bill.
“There is no data to support this bill as anything that’s going to
deter crime, and anything that’s going to positively impact public
safety,” Walker said. “This is an emotional bill, not a thoughtful
The bill is under review by Gov. Deval L Patrick, a spokeswoman said.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Mass. House passes drug sentencing changes and “3 strikes” bill for felons
By John J. Monahan TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
BOSTON — The House today voted 139-14 to adopt revisions to the
state’s mandatory drug laws and a “three strikes” bill to deny parole
eligibility to those convicted of three violent felony crimes.
The legislation, dubbed Melissa’s bill after Melissa Gosule, a woman
raped and murdered in 1999 by a paroled repeat violent offender, would
eliminate the possibility of parole for those convicted of three
violent felonies from a list of 40 crimes.
Many crime victims and their families, as well as law enforcement
officials, were anxious to see the repeat offender provisions enacted
after years of seeing them die without final votes, but some critics,
including the ACLU, denounced the legislation.
Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts called the
legislation “deeply flawed.” She called on the governor and lawmakers
to include further reforms to mandatory drug sentences that were
backed by her group as well as numerous prisoner rights and police
organizations who have argued lengthy drug sentences without post
release parole oversight, warehouses criminals and fails to provide
for post-release supervision.
The bill, she said, “will put more people in prison and keep them
there longer at a price tag of nearly $50,000 per prisoner each year.”
“We need to repeal mandatory sentencing not expand it,” she said.
Meanwhile some district attorneys complained that the bill did not
include a major expansion of state law enforcement wiretapping powers.
The three strikes crime list ranges from murder and rape to armed
robbery, manslaughter, incest, assault with serious bodily injury,
assault with intent to murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, inducing
a minor into prostitution and child pornography.
The version of the bill agreed to in a House-Senate conference
committee Tuesday and voted on in the House today did not include
earlier proposals from the governor to allow nonviolent drug offenders
to be released after two thirds of their sentences. But it provides
for reductions in many mandatory drug sentences and increases drug
amounts required to trigger prosecution for higher offenses of
distribution and trafficking.
Another major change will reduce the area of school zones in which
drug offenses carry mandatory add-on sentences from the current 1,000
feet to 300 feet and eliminates application of those mandatory
sentences for crimes in school zones between midnight and 5 a.m.
The bill represents a major expansion of sentencing powers for those
convicted of three violent felonies, for example, increasing from one
to 20, the number of crimes that can draw a sentence of life without
Senate Judicary Chairman Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, fought in vain
during conference committee negotiations to include a so-called
“safety valve” against excessive or unjust sentencing under the three
strikes provisions. That would have let judges allow parole
eligibility in instances where there was a compelling reason that a
three strikes “no parole” sentence may be unwarranted or unjust.
But the three House members on the six-member committee joined with
Sen. Jennifer L. Flanagan, D-Leominster, to kill the safety valve
language on a 4-2 committee vote Tuesday, with critics of the safety
valve language arguing that it would work against a primary aim of the
bill to limit judicial sentencing discretion.
Another committee member, Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, said the bill
failed to fully address problems with mandatory drug sentences. “I
think we have taken a step in that direction, but we haven’t completed
the job,” Mr. Linsky said. He said questions remain whether those
mandatory drug sentences should be left in place.
House Judiciary Chairman Eugene L. Flaherty, D-Chelsea, said he backed
the final bill because of improvements he agrees with, but that he
will continue working to eliminate mandatory drug sentences so judges
can sentence convicts based on the individual case.
“I don’t agree with minimum mandatory sentences at all,” Mr. Flaherty said.
Under the bill, mandatory sentences for first, second and additional
offenses for distribution or possession with intent to distribute
heroin, cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs would be reduced
and specific weights needed to support trafficking and distribution
charges have been increased.
The mandatory sentence for trafficking in 100 to 2,000 pounds of
marijuana would be reduced from three to two years, and for 2,000 to
10,000 pounds the sentence would be reduced from five to three and a
Current law imposes a mandatory sentence for trafficking in 14 to 28
grams of cocaine of three years. The bill would reduce the mandatory
sentence to 2 years and increase the amounts to support that charge
from between 18 and 36 grams.
Currently trafficking 28 to 100 grams of cocaine carries a 5-year
mandatory sentence. The bill would reduce it to 3 1/2 years and
increase weights to 36 to 100 grams. The mandatory sentence for 100 to
200 grams of cocaine would drop from 10 to 8 years.
Trafficking 14 to 18 grams of heroin now carries a 5-year mandatory
sentence. The bill would reduce it to 3 1/2 and increase the weights
to 18 to 36 grams and trafficking 36 to 100 grams would drop from 7 to
According to a legislative summary of the bill, retroactivity
provisions will allow some inmates who are currently serving mandatory
drug sentences to be eligible for immediate release from prison if the
bill is signed into law. That would include those who have already
served the new minimum mandatory sentences assigned to crimes for
which they were convicted.
Other changes under the bill would prevent criminal charges in cases
where a person seeks medical treatment for a drug overdose and allow
doctors to prescribe Naloxene, a drug to treat drug overdoses to those
likely to overdose.
The bill contained in the conference report now goes to the Senate for
an up or down vote.
House passes compromise three-strikes bill
By Wesley Lowery | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT JULY 19, 2012
The Massachusetts House overwhelmingly voted in favor of a compromise
version of the tough-on-crime “three strikes” bill Wednesday night
that would eliminate the possibility of parole for habitual criminal
offenders, while reducing some mandatory minimum sentences for
nonviolent drug offenders.
The legislation now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to be
If passed, the controversial proposal would end a decade of stalled
attempts to change the way repeat criminals are sentenced.
“Does it go as far as some people would like? Probably not. But it is
a step forward,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in an interview
Wednesday night, adding that he believes the revised legislation will
earn approval from both the Senate and the governor. “It’s a major
step forward from where we were,” DeLeo said.
A compromise brokered between House and Senate trims the number of
crimes that could potentially count toward the loss of parole
eligibility, from the proposed 67 to 46. Those who accumulate three
such offenses, known as three strikes, or those who are given more
than one life sentence would lose the chance for parole. But offenders
would have to be sentenced to at least three years in state prison for
the offense to count against them.
‘There are a lot of innocent people out there who won’t be harmed
because of this.’
The latest version of the bill would also reduce the minimum required
sentences for drug offenders on a case-by-case basis, while increasing
the amount of drugs that would trigger a mandatory sentence.
But it does not include required supervision of felons after they are
released from prison, or an expansion of state wiretapping laws, two
provisions backed by Governor Deval Patrick.
A spokeswoman for Patrick declined to comment on the revised bill,
adding that the governor’s office has yet to fully review it.
House support for the bill, in a 139-to-14 vote, came despite
opposition from the black and Latino caucus, whose 10 members slammed
the compromise Wednesday, saying it removes judges’ ability to
determine sentences and does not fully eliminate mandatory minimum
In a statement, the caucus expressed disappointment that the bill
“imposes new burdens on our courts and prisons while doing too little
to promote rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders and prevent
recidivism.” Implementing the bill will cost $100 million over the
next 15 years, they said.
“At least 17 states have enacted similar legislation, and what the
research shows is that there is a disparate racial impact and the
prison population will grow,” said Benjamin Thompson, executive
director of the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition and an opponent of
Thompson contends that Massachusetts lawmakers have ignored studies
arguing that similar laws addressing habitual offenders in other
states have not worked.
One report, issued in June by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute
for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, concluded that the Bay
State’s proposed “three-strikes” law would be costly and might not
improve public safety.
“We never asked them to not come out with a new sentencing bill,”
Thompson said. “What we asked them to do is please look at evidence
and not make the bill a knee-jerk reaction to a couple of horrific
Public outcry over the killing of Woburn police Officer John Maguire
on Christmas weekend in 2010 by a repeat criminal out on parole
renewed lawmakers’ push for the bill last year.
But Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, longtime chairman of the
Judiciary Committee, made it clear Wednesday that he is uncomfortable
with some of the provisions in the compromise, though he ultimately
urged his colleagues in the House to pass it.
“[The bill] makes sure that the most violent repeat criminals out
there are not preying upon children or other victims and that if
they’re serious criminals that they be treated seriously by our
judicial system,” he said.
House approval of the bill comes as many states are moving away from
repeat offender laws. Few states have passed new laws in recent years,
said Alison Lawrence, a policy specialist at the National Conference
of State Legislatures.
“We’ve seen many states looking at adjusting or getting rid of
mandatory minimum sentencing for low-level, nonviolent crimes such as
some drug offenses,” she said. “The whole idea is that you want to
preserve prison for the most dangerous criminals.”
The governor has previously supported a version of the bill that would
have allowed those convicted for a third time to be eligible for
parole after serving the majority of their sentence. It remains
unclear if the omission of that provision and others Patrick has
supported could mean he refuses to sign the legislation if it is
approved by the Senate.
One of the bill’s most vocal supporters says he remains confident that
the governor will sign off on the compromise.
“He shook my hand, gave me a few hugs, and told me that once the bill
is balanced he would support it,” said Les Gosule.
In 1999, Gosule’s daughter Melissa was raped and killed by Michael
Gentile, who had previously been convicted of 27 crimes. Gosule’s push
for a change in state law led to the legislation becoming known as
But not all involved in the Gosule case believe the revised version
goes far enough. Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe,
who prosecuted Gentile, slammed the compromise as bad policy that will
only affect a few people each year and urged Patrick to veto it.
But Gosule insists that the compromise is a move in the right
direction and could help protect future victims.
“I won’t know who, you won’t know who, but there are a lot of innocent
people out there who won’t be harmed because of this,” he said.