Massachusetts residents calling for criminal justice reform

Advocates are pushing lawmakers to end mandatory minimum sentences

BOSTON (WWLP) – More than a hundred residents from across Massachusetts came to the State House to call for criminal justice reform.

The state’s Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on almost 100 bills dealing with the criminal justice system, including sealing of records, juvenile justice and court proceedings.

Advocates are calling on state lawmakers to approve a bill that would create job placement and training programs, programs that former inmate Jafet Robles from Neighbor to Neighbor, Springfield, said could help people from going back into the prison system.

“When people come out and they can’t find work, they have no other option, they’re always going to resort to what they know,” Robles told 22News. “Your life is never the same after a felony conviction. There’s so many barriers; there’s so many door that get shut in your face that people lose hope.”

Advocates are pushing lawmakers to end mandatory minimum sentences. One Springfield City Councilor, Adam Gomez, told 22News he sees youth in his community getting stuck in the prison system because of these mandatory sentences.

“People that are 19, 18-years-old end up with a long prison sentence so by the time they come home, they’re almost 30 into their 40s because of mandatory minimum sentencing,” Gomez said.

Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz said mandatory minimums help protect the public from offenders who commit dangerous crimes, including homicides and drug trafficking.

“The individuals who we are talking about are people who are selling the poison. People who are trafficking these drugs in our streets,” said Cruz.

The committee is currently reviewing the bills and has yet to decide whether to approve or kill the proposals.