State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who represents Jamaica Plain, said she was "made nauseous by the handiwork of government" after she said an all-white panel of a criminal justice working group ignored a room of black and Latino demonstrators.
The meeting of the 25-member Council of State Governments Justice Center task force, which is working to reduce recidivism in Massachusetts, is made up of state policymakers and criminal justice officials. Chang-Diaz said she attended its three-hour meeting Dec. 21, and registered her frustration with the meeting on her website the following day.
Chang-Diaz wrote that the meeting was "polite, technical question-asking, none of which had to do with the cries for help from communities most impacted by crime." She continued: "...I watched a room full of Black and Latino demonstrators, who have been patient for the past 2 years, plead with an all-white panel of CSG working group members to say something or ask some questions about the devastating effects the criminal justice system has on their communities."
Chang-Diaz said she was voicing her frustration because, "...for the last two years legislators and grassroots activists alike have been baited into believing this 'Justice Reinvestment Initiative' was going to make a serious effort at fixing that. Yesterday we were placidly told 'that was never part of our charge.'"
During the meeting, the working group focused "its preliminary recommendations on ways to reduce recidivism, primarily through improving post-release supervision and pre-release programming," reported masslive.com. A study on racial disparities in the criminal justice system was also released, but the report "lacked context and was unable to provide reasons for the racial disparities because the data was not available."
According to masslive.com:
Advocates for sentencing reform from labor, religious and liberal organizing groups criticized the working group for not going far enough. The activists are pushing for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, the elimination of various court fees and other changes to sentencing to reduce the number of people who are sent to jail. Many of the activists are black and Latino, and they criticized the CSG panel for not being diverse and for not taking a serious look at the racial implications of criminal justice reform. Only two of 25 panel members are minorities.