State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz let it be known she doesn’t agree with several district attorneys’ comments regarding a state bill that would decrease the amount of people in the criminal justice system. She is strongly in favor of the bill while some DAs do not like that some mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses would be removed.
“The knee-jerk reaction of some district attorneys to the (Massachusetts) Senate reform package smacks of entitlement. They want to talk about accountability? Over the last forty years, we gave huge power to DAs in sentencing – and with it they oversaw a system that grew into a costly, ineffective, and racist mess,” said Chang-Díaz to Jamaica Plain News. “We lock up 300 percent more people than we used to in Massachusetts, with no decrease in drug addiction. Saying ‘we’re going tough on those drug dealers’ feels good politically, but it does nothing to solve the actual problem. If there are other tools the DAs need to increase public safety, they should ask and make the case. But this is a failed tactic and we need to have the courage as a state to call the question on that.”
Chang-Díaz specifically responded to comments in the Boston Globe made by some district attorneys.
Chang-Díaz didn’t have a problem with Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley’s comments on the bill saying, “I appreciate District Attorney Conley’s more thoughtful and nuanced comments compared to his brother DA’s statements. I’m glad to see him embracing the growing consensus that our state needs serious sentencing reform and a comprehensive approach to fixing our broken justice system. I hope he will continue to reflect on the evidence that shows mandatory minimums are ineffective and use his platform to drive more just policy, rather than looking forward to it.”
Conley provided the following statement regarding the bill, according to Commonwealth Magazine:
“Massachusetts has among the lowest violent crime and incarceration rates in the country and both continue to fall. We are already doing a lot of things right, but we can always do better. One area where we need to improve is reducing recidivism and this bill does a good job addressing that. I also see some promising ideas to improve our bail statutes, remove barriers to successful re-entry, and eliminate fines and fees on low-income defendants. I do not support mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenders, so I have rarely enforced school zone charges. I’m open to both eliminating those and rethinking second and subsequent drug distribution charges when the quantities are minor. There are certainly some aspects of the bill I am concerned about, and others, such as the ideal felony threshold for larceny, that are really just a question of finding the right balance point.”
“This bill is a sincere compromise, with solid reform elements and comprehensive breadth,” said Chang-Díaz. “It doesn’t go as far as other states on mandatory minimums or reinvestment, but it makes our justice system fairer and more effective by giving people who work hard for a second chance a realistic shot at rehabilitating, by recognizing addiction as a disease rather than a crime, and many other needed reforms. It won’t finish the work of reforming our justice system, but it’s a serious bill and we shouldn’t accept anything less.”