Mass. Bar partners with MassINC for "Reform, Re-entry and Results" panel

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014
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Photo Credit: Mike Vigneux
Mass. Bar partnered with MassINC on a presentation and panel discussion on criminal justice reform at UMass Boston

MassINC, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition hosted a presentation and panel discussion entitled "Reform, Re-entry and Results: Change and Progress in the Massachusetts Criminal Justice System" on Thursday, Feb. 20, at UMass Boston.

The event featured remarks from Gov. Deval L. Patrick, who announced a program that aims to reduce recidivism by prison inmates by 50 percent during the next five years. The governor called for the reinstatement of the Sentencing Commission, the limited use of restraints on mentally ill inmates in state prisons to only those that pose "serious and immediate" danger, and the abolishment of the use of restraints on pregnant inmates.

Patrick highlighted the importance of re-entry programs, stating that 97 percent of those incarcerated will return to Massachusetts communities after serving time in prison. Patrick also stressed the prevention and treatment of substance abuse as primarily a health problem.

"Punishing people for addiction doesn't work. We need to treat substance abuse as a health problem instead of a criminal one," said Patrick.

Patrick's remarks came as the introduction to the release of new MassINC Polling Group results "Ready for Reform? Public Opinion on Criminal Justice in Massachusetts." The MassInc Polling Group results were derived from a recently concluded public opinion research project on criminal justice reform in the state. The research included four focus groups and a statewide telephone poll of 1,207 Massachusetts residents. See the March issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Journal for more information.

The event concluded with a  panel discussion of experts and activists responding to Patrick's remarks as well as the new public opinion data. Panelists were: Greg Torres (moderator), president, MassINC; True-See Allah, Director, Boston Reentry Initiative - Suffolk County Sheriff's Department; Kevin Burke, Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and Security (2007-2010), co-chair, Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition; Andrea Cabral, Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and Security; John Larivee, CEO, Community Resources for Justice; Marian T. Ryan, Middlesex District Attorney; Max D. Stern, partner, Stern Shapiro Weissberg & Garin LLP, co-chair, Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition; and Steven W. Tompkins, Suffolk County Sheriff.