BOSTON (WWLP) – Residents are calling on lawmakers to end mandatory minimum sentences.
The state’s judiciary committee heard from the public Monday on nearly 60 criminal justice reform bills. Residents and community leaders gave testimony on bills dealing with sentencing policies, release programs and addiction and mental health services.
Several lawmakers, including Springfield Representative Bud Williams, have filed controversial proposals that would end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.
“Not only is it about racial disparity within how this policy has worked over the years, but how that affects people’s ability to get jobs,” said State Representative Evandro Carvalho, (D) Boston.
Several districts attorney came to the hearing who oppose ending mandatory minimum sentences, but residents said sentencing should be up to the judges after reviewing each individual case.
One Springfield resident told 22News that mandatory minimums are hurting prisoners reintegrating into the community when they get out of jail.
“People that have a substance abuse issue should get substance abuse help. I don’t think that being locked up in a cell is the conclusion that we want-obviously it hasn’t been working. Addiction is a disease, not a crime,” said Armando Olivares, Neighbor to Neighbor, Springfield.
About 70 legislators have co-sponsored bills to end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.
The state’s judiciary committee is currently reviewing the bill. They have yet to decide whether to approve or kill the proposal.