Elugardo: Criminal Justice Reform Includes Learning From ‘Inside the Walls’

In our district, many agree that structural inequities abound in our public institutions. One stark example: the criminal justice system. The belief that we must not only expose, but also eradicate the injustice embedded in Massachusetts “Correctional” Institutions (MCIs), and in the systems that send people there, is a big part of what inspired my run as state representative. Since assuming office I’ve regularly visited four of our MCIs to participate in restorative justice events, to take a tour of education and jobs training facilities, and, most importantly, to learn from and support political organizing “inside the walls,” as those living there often refer to themselves. The African American Coalition Committee (AACC) is one of a number of inspiring leadership organizations comprised of incarcerated persons.

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Chang-Díaz Pushes for Justice Reinvestment and Comprehensive Reform

Advocates, experts, legislators and community leaders converged at the State House on Monday to testify in favor of a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that would repeal mandatory minimum drug sentences, reduce certain non-violent felonies to misdemeanors, would further reform the CORI system to promote successful re-entry and more. The bill would also create a medical parole mechanism for permanently incapacitated inmates, raise the threshold for felony larceny and would also take the savings produced from lower incarceration rates to create a trust fund to redistribute resources from the criminal justice system to community education and workforce development programs.

“Our state is wasting precious resources on a system that isn’t just and doesn’t work,” said state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston), Judiciary Committee member and a sponsor of the bill, An Act for Justice Reinvestment (H.2308/S.791), according to a press release. “We can use public resources responsibly, on those sentences and programs that are fitted to the crime and that prevent crime where we know we can. We can save millions of dollars, and invest those savings to ensure that our neighborhoods are well-served.”

“Today we can clearly see the high cost of our criminal justice policies on historically impoverished communities and neighborhoods. Now is the time for Massachusetts to prioritize public safety by being smart on crime and investing in programs in education, job training and youth employment,” said state Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester), a sponsor of H.2308, according to a press release.

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Chang-Diaz Highlights Two Main Focuses: Early Childhood Education and Criminal Justice Reform

State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz spoke to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council on Tuesday night about the two issues she is most focused on -- early childhood education and a comprehensive criminal justice reform. Chang-Diaz said "neighborhood issues are always cooking in my office" but added that charter schools have taken up the majority of her time the last several months, which is an issue across the state. "I'm a big proponent of early childhood education," said Chang-Diaz senator who is chair of the Joint Committee on Education. "My conclusion -- both from the district and state-wide, is that high-quality early childhood education is imperative for underserved children." She said she's filed legislation that would fund programs for "universal state-wide access for very young children to take part in the school system."

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