The Massachusetts juvenile justice system fails to collect or share much of the basic statistical data needed to analyze how well the system is operating. Without adequate metrics to assess its effectiveness, policymakers are limited in judging whether current policies are improving public safety and whether youth are being effectively assisted to become productive adults. This legislation will gather key demographic data at major decision points to better identify and evaluate policies or practices that may inadvertently drive children deeper into the system.
The Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018 created limited expungement opportunities of court records for juveniles and individuals who were under age 21 at the time of the offense. However, the restrictions on expungement have resulted in very few records being eligible. This bill would revise the expungement statute and other sections relative to juvenile records to help realize the intent of the law.
This will provide key improvements to one of the Commonwealth’s most important public safety mechanisms: parole. It would increase Parole Board membership and requires that at least three members of the Board have substantial experience with mental health or substance use disorders. It would also require the Parole Board to rely on structured guidelines and a validated risk and needs assessment tool, and improves the parole process for persons with disabilities. It also allows persons denied parole to be reviewed again after three years rather than the current five years waiting period.
relative to Education Programming for the Incarcerated
Requires that GED courses be offered to all DOC and HOC prisoners who have not achieved GED. Requires maximizing out-of-cell time and opportunities for prisoner participation in education, training, employment, and all other programming including programming related to rehabilitation, health care and substance use. All prisoners shall have the opportunity to access at least one hour of programming daily at least five days a week. With the exception of restrictive housing and security or operational emergencies, no prisoner shall be locked into a cell for more than 16 hours daily.
relative to Medical Exams in Correctional Facilities
This would require, except during an emergency, the presence of a female nurse or corrections officer during any medical examination of a female inmate. This would provide protection to both the inmate and the treating physician.
This will provide judges with additional options in sentencing probation violators who had originally received a suspended sentence. A 1995 court decision held that judges can either keep a person on probation or impose the entirety of the previously suspended sentence. This bill gives the judge a third option, to ensure that the sentence imposed is in proportion to the probation violation.
This bill, which is supported by Attorney General Healy, would statutorily protect the confidentiality of victims of violent crime who apply for compensation. Applications routinely contain considerable private information that the victim wants to keep confidential. They may include the victim’s home or work address and phone numbers, names and addresses of the victim’s family and friends, and medical and behavioral health history.
Improving the Accuracy of Eyewitness Identification Procedures
This addresses the problem of innocent people being convicted due to erroneous eyewitness identifications by establishing standard procedures for: interviewing eyewitnesses; conducting lineups, show-ups, and photo array reviews; and assessing the accuracy of the witness statements.
There is currently a requirement that a court administrator provide separate and secure waiting areas for victims, family members, and witnesses during court proceedings and all new construction, but they are allowed to skirt this for lack of appropriation. This bill removes the clause “subject to appropriation and to available resources”, to guarantee there will be safe waiting areas for all
to Transfer Bridgewater State Hospital from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Mental Health
Bridgewater State Hospital is actually not licensed as a hospital but rather as a medium security prison. This bill transfers control of the Hospital from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Mental Health. This change will hopefully shift the focus from security to treatment for the patients who are there for clinical evaluation because they have pleaded an insanity defense or because they have been convicted of a crime but also suffer from a severe mental illness.