Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform Legislation



BOSTON – Recently the Massachusetts Senate continued its work of reforming the state’s criminal justice system by passing four reform related bills: S.727, S.728, S.795, and S.2216. The bills address various criminal justice reform issues such as penalties for vandalism and graffiti (“tagging”), non-payment of fines, and the use of community corrections for those awaiting trial.


Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) sponsored S.2216, An Act Relative to the Use of Community Corrections for Pre-Trial Detainees and Criminal Defendants, which would increase access to community corrections centers for individuals awaiting trial.


Community corrections centers provide substance abuse treatment, drug testing, career development services, and other programming. Current law does not allow pre-trial criminal defendants to access the services at community corrections centers. This bill would remove that prohibition, allowing a judge, the probation department, or a sheriff to send an individual awaiting trial to receive pretrial services at a community correction center. This will provide an intermediate level of supervision for individuals who a judge may not feel comfortable releasing to the community without drug treatment. 


“Opening community corrections centers to pretrial defendants should keep hundreds of people from going to jail each year by offering an alternative to incarceration for judges to consider,” said Sen. Jehlen. “Eliminating unnecessary incarceration has been shown to significantly decrease recidivism. The Senate has now taken a number of affirmative steps to improve the criminal justice system, from the time of first appearance in court to the impacts on a person’s life long after they are released from custody.”


The Senate has been actively reforming the criminal justice system to reduce recidivism, adopt best practices, and produce better outcomes. The Senate passed legislation last month updating the threshold for felony larceny and the Governor recently signed legislation, first passed by the Senate, which repeals automatic license suspension for non-violent drug crimes.


“Senator Jehlen is a true leader on issues regarding criminal justice reform. Whether it has been sponsoring legislation to allow for the greater continuity of care for those involved with the justice system, or supporting legislation to remove barriers to successful re-entry – like the repeal of the automatic license suspension law – Senator Jehlen has been a tremendous partner,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “Her sponsorship of An Act Relative to the Use of Community Corrections for Pre-Trial Detainees and Criminal Defendants is an example of her commitment to divert appropriate individuals away incarceration. I deeply value her friendship and her leadership in the Legislature.”


The bills passed now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. 


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