Policing and Criminal Justice Reform

 

As an ardent advocate for policing and criminal justice reform, I believe it’s imperative to address both the moral and fiscal costs of our current system and the toll that decades of shortsighted policies have taken on our communities. I’ve been working with advocates and my colleagues in the legislature to enact systemic changes at every stage of the justice system, from biased policing to pretrial detention, and from sentencing and incarceration to reentry supports -- and to include prevention in the first place.

 

As a co-chair of the Senate’s Racial Justice Working Group, I was one of the architects of the police reform legislation signed into law in December of 2020. Designed to strengthen accountability and prioritize de-escalation in law enforcement, the law (among other reforms) places strong limits on use of force, creates a civilian-led POST Board (the 1st in the nation) to investigate incidents of misconduct and decertify officers who abuse their power, lifts the requirement that schools employ police officers, and bans racial profiling.

 

In 2010, I helped secure passage the of the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system reform to reduce recidivism rates, ensure taxpayer dollars are spent more wisely, and make access to criminal records fairer and more effective. In 2018, I was proud to help win sweeping criminal justice reform legislation, which, among other reforms, decriminalized a number of minor offenses and expanded opportunities for alternatives to incarceration, overhauled the bail system, reduced solitary confinement, improved the system of sealing and expunging records, reduced fines and fees imposed on defendants, and kept children under age 12 out of the juvenile justice system. I also pushed successfully to end automatic driver’s license suspensions and exorbitant fines in drug cases, allowing offenders who have served their time to get back to work and resume care for themselves and their families.

 

More recently, I’ve served as the lead sponsor of the Justice Reinvestment Act, which would calculate the savings from sentencing reforms and reinvest those funds into community education and workforce development programs. A version of this legislation was included as part of the Reform, Shift + Built package that passed the Senate in 2020.

RELATED UPDATES

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"At the end of the day, when I zoom out and I look at what this bill accomplishes... there is a ton in this bill that is really going to set a new standard for the national policy landscape on police accountability that could potentially ripple through the other forty-nine states."

By Colin A. Young | Jan 06, 2021

WGBH

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, who was one of the bills sponsors, said the law is a “mile-marker,” but not an end to an ongoing fight against racism in policing.

By Tori Bedford | Jan 01, 2021

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Gov. Charlie Baker signed sweeping police reform legislation on Thursday that will create a mandatory certification process for law enforcement and launch the nation’s first civilian-led police oversight board with subpoena power and decertification authority.

By Sarah Betancourt | Jan 01, 2021

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Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat, lamented that many things “over-policed communities pleaded for” are not in the bill, including binding definitions of use of force. But she said there was much for advocates to celebrate.

By Matt Stout | Dec 22, 2020

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