While I was completing my Masters in Social Work at Hunter College in New York, I had the opportunity to help lead a national campaign called Mothers In Prison, Children in Crisis, which called attention to the mass incarceration of women—especially poor women and women of color—and the impact on their children.
In Massachusetts crime rates have declined every year for the last six years, and with them, overall rates of incarceration. Yet there’s much more to this story.
And it begins with focusing first on continued disproportionate rates of incarceration in communities of color.
While roughly 6.6% of the state’s population is Black, approximately 28.3% are incarcerated. And while roughly 10.6% of the state’s population is Latino, the incarceration rate for Latinos is approximately 26%.
We must also end the practice of incarcerating people struggling with addiction or mental illness, overhaul our bail system, end the practice of solitary confinement, and more.
Please take a moment to look at the criminal justice reform bills I have filed this session.
You can also view all bills I’ve co-sponsored this session here.
Ban the So-Called “Gay Panic” Defense
SD.1183, An Act protecting LGBTQ victims
Criminal defendants have made the outrageous argument in court that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity provoked a violent reaction from the defendant that resulted in murder or other violent crimes. My bill instructs courts that when determining mitigating circumstances for a homicide or other crime, the perpetrator’s perception of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity shall not be considered reasonable provocation.
No New Prisons and Jails
SD.1774, An Act establishing a jail and prison construction moratorium
We should be reducing jail and prison populations by building community-based correctional programs and other alternatives to incarceration. We should not spend taxpayer money to build new prisons or expand existing ones to incarcerate more people. My bill imposes a 5-year moratorium on the construction or expansion of jails, prisons, and other correctional facilities, which would put the brakes on plans to build a $50 million prison for women inmates in Norfolk. Those funds could be invested in education, human services and other resources which would have a more positive effect on protecting public safety.
Seal and Expunge Criminal Records for Drug-Related Crimes
SD.1776, An Act empowering individuals affected by substance abuse to rebuild their lives
People struggling with substance use disorder are often charged with drug-related crimes. These charges remain as criminal records for years, effectively preventing access to stable housing, employment, and sadly, increasing recidivism rates. My bill allows people with certain drug charges to automatically seal their record, after a shorter waiting period than currently provided, for both felonies and misdemeanors. It also allows people to petition to expunge certain drug charges from their record after a shorter waiting period and makes expungement the default outcome for sealing those charges.