Current legislation

Families for Justice as Healing’s top legislative priority for the 190th Legislative Session is the “Primary Caretakers Bill.”

SUPPORT S.770: An Act providing community-based sentencing alternatives for primary caretakers of dependent children and have been convicted of non-violent crimes. Lead sponsor: Senator William Brownsberger. The goal of this bill is to alleviate harm to children and their parents or caretakers caused by separation during incarceration, and to strengthen families’ connections to their communities.

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Formerly incarcerated women in Massachusetts drafted S.770. The National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls supports the bill.

  • S.770 asks judges to pause and consider the impact of incarceration on the parent they are sentencing, and that parent’s children and community. This humanizes people who are convicted of crimes. The judge then has the option of issuing an alternative sentence.
  • Families go through immeasurable pain and face generations of trauma when parents are separated from their children due to incarceration. When parents are convicted, their children are punished too. Alternative sentences keep parents out of cages and alleviate suffering.
  • When a parent is incarcerated, families lose needed income and often struggle to meet their basic needs. This bill would prevent that kind of de-stabilization. Alternatives to incarceration allow parents to be home in their community so they continue loving, caring, and providing for their children.
  • 65% of women in prison are mothers. Most moms in prison were living with their children at the time they were convicted.
  • In 2016, 48% of women in Massachusetts state correctional facilities had a non-violent governing offense and would have been eligible for alternative sentences if the Primary Caretakers bill was law. (MA DOC)
  • A network of alternatives to incarceration, including non-profits and treatment programs, already exist in Massachusetts.
  • Alternative sentences are cheaper and reduce recidivism. We can reinvest money spent on incarceration toward even more alternatives. Instead of jail and prison, parents could receive drug and alcohol treatment; vocational training and job placement; parenting classes; and affordable and safe housing assistance.

We encourage you to contact members of the Judiciary Committee and ask them to support S.770!

FJAH also supports these bills:

An Act to Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Sentences Related to Drug Offenses. S.819 and H.741 Lead sponsors: Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Evandro Carvalho. Although people of color make up less than 25% of the Commonwealth’s population and less than 28% of people convicted of drug possession, they are roughly 55% of those convicted of drug distribution and 75% of those convicted of mandatory minimum drug offenses. Mandatory minimums fuel racial disparities in the criminal legal system. Prosecutors use mandatory minimums to coerce people into plea deals under the threat of excessively long sentences. Mandatory minimum sentencing is a major reason why over 90% of prosecutions in Massachusetts result in convictions without trials. Mandatory minimum sentencing for drugs started in Massachusetts in the 1980s. It’s long past time to end it.

An Act to authorize public health workers to pursue new measures to reduce harm and stigma for people affected by substance abuse disorder. Also known as the “Supervised Injection Facility Bill.” S. 1081 Lead sponsor: Senator William Brownsberger. Supervised Injection facilities (SIFs) are legal facilities where drug users can inject drugs under medical supervision in an hygienic environment.  There are over 100 SIFs around the world. No one has ever fatally overdosed in a SIF. SIFs can be a doorway to the treatment and care people need, especially drug users who are homeless and people who would otherwise use drugs in public spaces. SIFs are proven to reduce overdose deaths, transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C, and discarded needles in the streets. This bill would sanction a SIF in Massachusetts which could provide sterile injection equipment, risk-reduction counseling, and access to medical and substance abuse treatment. SIFs are a life-saving intervention and harm-reduction response to the crisis of opioid overdose in Massachusetts. SIFs are a step away from criminalizing drug users and a step toward needed treatment.

An Act to Promote Humane Conditions of Confinement. S.1296 Lead Sponsor Cynthia Creem. This bill ensures that no woman who is pregnant, is in the postpartum period, or has recently suffered a miscarriage or terminated a pregnancy can be held in segregation (without written proof of exigent circumstances). The bill would also prohibit people from being housed in segregation units because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex. This bill also mandates improved conditions for people held in segregation and non-disciplinary segregation, including consistent access to mental health treatment and limiting how long a person can be housed in a segregation unit. Solitary confinement is torture and we must do whatever we can to end it.

We will continue to update this list with legislation we encourage you to fight for!