BOSTON — A month after Gov. Charlie Baker signed a major criminal justice overhaul into law, debate around the issue is not yet settled, and prisoners’ rights advocates on Monday urged lawmakers to reject some of Baker’s recommended changes to the new law.
Baker signed two criminal justice laws on April 13, and at the same time offered a new bill which he said would make technical modifications he’d already discussed with lawmakers and also address “serious concerns” he had with the some policies pursued in the initial legislation.
“Keeps Them Broken”
Representatives from Prisoners Legal Service and the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers testified against the change, arguing it would roll back protections for people with psychiatric disabilities or mental illness.
Prisoners Legal Service staff attorney Jesse White said her organization had “direct experience with many prisoners suffering” under previous definitions of serious mental illness.
“We even had the heartbreaking experience of having a client in the departmental disciplinary unit commit suicide after advocacy failed to get him diverted into a secure treatment unit because he did not meet the definition of serious mental illness to which we would return under the proposed amendments,” she said.