BOSTON, MA – Yesterday the House and Senate passed S. 2371 which makes major changes to modernize Massachusetts’s criminal justice system and reform the state’s policies that contribute to mass incarceration. Representative Denise Provost of Somerville, a member of the House Progressive Caucus, was delighted that the legislation addressed all five Progressive Caucus priorities. The legislation creates limits on the use of cash bail, repeals some mandatory minimum sentences for minor, non-violent drug crimes, allows individuals to apply for expungement from their records of offenses they committed as juveniles, raises the felony- larceny threshold, and includes comprehensive data collection so that future reforms can be evidence-based.

“I have learned a lot about what is broken in our criminal justice system, and I have welcomed the chance to work with so many dedicated colleagues to improve it,” said Provost.

Besides success in amending the bill in important ways, the Progressive Caucus also prevailed upon the conference committee for reforms to solitary confinement, creation of a medical parole system, and creating a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system. All of these provisions were included in the final legislation.

Majority Whip Byron Rushing (D – South End), co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, and a member of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, said Wednesday, “Fifty years to the day after the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., black and brown communities still disproportionately bear the burden of mass incarceration. The fight is far from over, but many of the reforms in this legislation will help reduce racial disparities in incarceration, bringing us one small step closer to Dr. King’s dream. I am also reminded of Dr. King’s message that to achieve justice, we must work in solidarity. Achieving these long overdue reforms was only possible through sustained pressure from minority communities and allies and lots of hard work by passionate legislators.”

This landmark legislation came after years of work and coordination between the Progressive Caucus, the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, the Harm Reduction Caucus, and outside advocacy groups including the Jobs Not Jails coalition.

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