Legislation

Legislative Priorities

Please find below PLS’ current legislative priorities for the 2021-2022 legislative session.

We believe the following bills will reduce harm within the jail and prison system, increase and promote rehabilitation and public safety, and lower recidivism.

decarceration

An Act regarding decarceration and COVID-19: This bill appropriately balances public safety needs against the imminent public health threat of COVID-19 and takes important and necessary steps to release people from incarceration so that the virus does not spread quickly in our jails and prisons, and in turn, to staff, families and our health care system. 

  • Fact Sheet
  • Virtual Hearing: The Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a virtual public hearing on several important bills related to correctional services and spending on Tuesday, October 5th.

life without parole

An Act to Reduce Mass. Incarceration: This bill would allow all people serving life sentences the opportunity for a parole hearing after serving 25 years, and it would apply retroactively so that it would impact currently incarcerated people.

  • Fact Sheet
  • Virtual Hearing: The Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a virtual public hearing on several important bills related to correctional services and spending on Tuesday, October 5th. Read our testimony here.
  • Virtual Public Briefing: See a flyer regarding a Two-Part Legislative Briefing on Parole herePart 1, Parole Access and Medical Parole, was held on September 22, 2021, and Part 2, Ending Life without Parole, will be held on October 14, 2021.

media access

An Act relative to media access and transparency in correctional facilities: This bill would increase transparency in the correctional system by ensuring that media representatives have appropriate and reasonable access to visitation, telephone calls, and other communication with incarcerated people.


medical parole

An Act to remove barriers to medical parole: This bill will promote public safety and eliminate wasteful public spending on incarcerating dying or incapacitated prisoners while providing a measure of public decency toward incarcerated people who are terminally ill or permanently incapacitated. 

  • Fact Sheet
  • See a flyer regarding a Two-Part Legislative Briefing on Parole herePart 1, Parole Access and Medical Parole, was held on September 22, 2021, and Part 2, Ending Life without Parole, was held on October 14, 2021.

mental health watch

An Act to ensure the constitutional rights and human dignity of prisoners on mental health watch (S 1283/H 2089), sponsored by Sen. Eldridge and Rep. Fluker Oakley, would reform the mental health watch system, including creating baseline standards for mental health care, limits for use of mental health watch and improved conditions of confinement for persons placed on mental health watch. watch. Click here to read more from the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health.


no cost calls

An Act Relative to Inmate Telephone Calls/An Act relative to telephone service for inmates in all correctional and other penal institutions in the Commonwealth: These bills would support family connections by providing telephone calls for no cost to incarcerated people at all state prisons and county jails and houses of correction. 

  • Fact Sheet
  • Virtual Briefing: There will be a legislative briefing on no-cost calls legislation on January 19, 2022 at 4pm. Register here.
  • Virtual Hearing: The Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a virtual public hearing on several important bills related to correctional services and spending on Tuesday, October 5th. Read our testimony here.

parole access

An Act to promote equitable access to parole: This bill will improve the efficiency and balance of the parole board, account for the rights and needs of persons with certain disabilities, improve transparency, and reduce the length of time prisoners must wait between parole reviews.

  • Fact Sheet
  • See a flyer regarding a Two-Part Legislative Briefing on Parole herePart 1, Parole Access and Medical Parole, was held on September 22, 2021, and Part 2, Ending Life without Parole, was held on October 14, 2021.

prison and jail construction

An Act establishing a jail and prison construction moratorium (S 2030 / H 1905) sponsored by Sen. Comerford and Rep. Tyler would establish a five-year moratorium on new prison and jail construction and expansion in the Commonwealth. Click here to read the fact sheet from Families for Justice as Healing.

  • See a press release regarding a July 20th, 2021 hearing on this legislation here.
  • See testimony from PLS Staff Attorney and Equal Justice Works fellow Sarah Nawab here.
  • Virtual Hearing: The Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a virtual public hearing on several important bills related to correctional services and spending on Tuesday, October 5th. Read our testimony here.

RIGHTS ACT

An Act to Promote Rehabilitation Including Guaranteed Health, Treatment, and Safety for Incarcerated LGBTQI+ People would ensure incarcerated LGBTQI+ people have the right to safer housing, health, and affirming programming.


section 35

An Act ensuring access to addiction services: This bill would end the practice of incarcerating men who have not been convicted of any crime but who have been civilly committed for involuntary treatment for alcohol and substance use disorders under M.G.L. c. 123 § 35. 


Solitary Confinement

The solitary confinement provisions of the CJRA were meant to reduce harm and save lives. An act to provide criminal justice protections to all prisoners in segregated confinement will help the Commonwealth keep the promises it made in the CJRA, we urge you to support this bill. 

  • Fact Sheet
  • Virtual Hearing: The Massachusetts Legislative Criminal Justice Reform Caucus is sponsoring a virtual forum, “Solitary by Another Name is Still Solitary,” on November 4th. See flyer here and registration here.

substance use disorder

An Act establishing a commission to review substance use in correctional facilities: This bill will establish a committee that will collect, and review data about substance use in Massachusetts correctional institutions, jails, and houses of correction.


use of force

An Act to create uniform standards in use of force, increase transparency, and reduce harm: These bills create uniform minimum standards for state prisons, county jails, and houses of correction in order to minimize unnecessary and excessive use of force against incarcerated persons, increase transparency in the use of force, and decrease the harm that results to both incarcerated persons and custodial staff when incidents escalate into uses of force.


visitation

An Act to Strengthen family and community connection with incarcerated people: This bill would enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, and promote rehabilitation by ensuring that visitation is not unreasonably restricted and by facilitating the maintenance and growth of positive bonds between incarcerated people and their friends, family, and the broader community.


voting rights

An Act to protect the voting rights of eligible incarcerated people sponsored by Senator Hinds, Rep. Miranda, and Rep. Tyler, would ensure that all persons who are incarcerated and currently eligible to vote, have a meaningful opportunity to exercise their voting rights. Right now, many of these eligible voters (which includes those serving misdemeanor sentences, those who are civilly committed, and those who are pre-trial detainees) experience de facto disenfranchisement, stripping away their political power. This bill creates baseline standards and systems to improve access to the ballot for this disproportionately black and brown population. The fact sheet is in progress, being developed in the coalition. 

  • Fact Sheet
  • Virtual Hearing: The Joint Committee on Election Laws held a virtual public hearing on Wednesday, October 6th. Read our testimony here.

In addition to our priority legislation, PLS also supports the following bills

  • An Act relative to treatment, not imprisonment.  Rep. Ruth Balser, H. 1462
  • An Act regarding consistent care for addiction rooted in evidence, Rep. Ruth Balser, H. 2067
  • An Act to improve public safety by facilitating access to addiction services, Rep. Ruth Balser,H. 1460
  • An Act transferring Bridgewater State Hospital from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Mental Health, Rep. Ruth Balser,H. 2063
  • An Act relative to ensuring quality mental health services in state correctional facilities, Rep. Ruth Balser,H. 1461
  • An Act to improve mental health services in places of incarceration, Reps Ruth Balser and Marjorie DeckerH. 2085
  • An Act to Further Family-Centered Child Support, Sen. Creem, Rep. BarberS. 32H. 183More info here.
  • An Act to Prevent the Imposition of Mandatory Minimum Sentences Based on Juvenile Convictions, Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Rep. Liz Miranda, H. 1794S. 1022More info here.
  • An Act relative to homes for all, Sen. Chang Diaz, Rep. Miranda. More info here.S. 866H. 1799
  • An Act securing housing options for eligible tenants with a history of criminal justice involvement, HD 4041, Rep. Elugardo. More info here
  • An Act relative to enforcing federal law, Rep. Cabral  H. 1477
  • An Act to Reform Parole Supervision in the Interest of Justice, Sen Jehlen, Rep. Miranda, S. 1600H. 1798

LATEST NEWS AND UPDATES IN legislation

If you have any suggestions or questions about our legislative priorities, please contact Jesse White, jwhite@plsma.org, and Lizz Matos, lmatos@plsma.org.


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