Lawmakers, advocates calling for criminal justice reform

Mandatory minimum sentences seen as racially-biased

BOSTON (WWLP) – Black and Latino residents make up less than 1/5 of the population of Massachusetts, but they account for more than half of the incarcerated population in the state, and some lawmakers are hoping to bring that number down.

State lawmakers and more than 50 advocates gathered at the State House Tuesday, calling for comprehensive criminal justice reform in Massachusetts; a system they say has racially-biased sentencing policies. Fifty legislators support a bill that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) said that African-Americans and Latinos represent 75% of those convicted of drug crimes that carry a mandatory minimum sentence.

“Justice, we can all agree, should be colorblind. But today, there is no denying the complexion of incarceration in our state,” Chang-Diaz said.

Instead of putting residents into the prison system, state lawmakers hope to provide them with drug treatment programs; a plan they say would help save taxpayer dollars in the long run.