MBA testifies on criminal justice reform proposals

Thursday, Jun. 8, 2017
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Peter Elikann testified on behalf of the MBA at the June 5 hearing of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

Representatives from the Massachusetts Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section Council testified on behalf of the MBA at the June 5 hearing of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which focused on criminal justice reform.

According to the State House News Service, the Judiciary Committee's hearing agenda included 96 bills dealing with criminal procedure. Committee co-chair Sen. Will Brownsberger said most of the testimony dealt with what he deemed the "collateral consequences" of justice system involvement, like changes to the bail system and criminal records. The MBA representatives testified on seven of the proposed bills.

Peter Elikann, former chair and current member of the MBA's Criminal Justice Section, testified in support of S. 755 (Act Restricting Fine Time Sentences) and S. 777 (Act To Reduce the Criminalization Of Poverty). Regarding S. 777, he said the ability for judges to waive fines for indigent defendants who cannot afford them is on the cusp of a national trend.

Charu Amrita Verma of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, who is a member of the MBA's Criminal Justice Section Council, testified in support of S. 802 (Act Relative to Probation Surrender) and S. 827 (Act Relative to Review of Bail for Inability to Pay). He expressed the MBA's concerns with S. 834 (An Act Reforming Pretrial Process), noting its assessment tools were "too cookie cutter."

Criminal Justice Section Vice Chair Pauline Quirion of Greater Boston Legal Services expressed the MBA's support of S. 791 (Act for Justice Reinvestment), which the State House News Service called an "omnibus criminal justice reform package" that would repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, end probation and parole fees, reduce the length of time before a criminal record can be sealed, create a medical parole program and raise the threshold at which larceny becomes a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Quirion also testified in support of a CORI reform proposal filed as H. 3084 (An Act Promoting Community Prosperity by Further Reforming Criminal Offender Record Information), noting that the MBA is in favor of reducing the waiting period to seal criminal records.

Some of the bills at the June 5 hearing dealt directly with issues addressed by the criminal justice reform resolutions recently adopted by the MBA at its May House of Delegates meeting. The resolutions were put forth by the MBA's Criminal Justice Reform Working Group, a collaborative effort between the Civil Rights and Social Justice and Criminal Justice section councils. Both Verma and Quirion were members of that working group.