House gearing up for criminal justice reform debate

The House will likely debate the bill next week

Massachusetts State House Photo: Thinkstock

BOSTON (WWLP)—The Senate approved a massive bill to change the state’s criminal justice policies last month and now House lawmakers are gearing up for debate on a redrafted version of the bill.

The Senate’s bill calls for dozens of changes to the state’s criminal justice policies, including raising the age for juvenile justice, repealing mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses and erasing certain criminal records.

The House budget committee approved an amended version of the bill this week that also eliminates mandatory minimums for low-level drug offenses. It would also strengthen punishments for trafficking more potent drugs, like fentanyl.

22News sat down with budget committee chairman State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Boston) who led House efforts to amend the Senate bill.

“We want to make sure that we’re identifying people who are trafficking and being thoughtful about those who are using,” Sanchez said.

State representatives filed more than 200 amendments to the criminal justice reform bill, including revisions that would raise the felony larceny threshold, increase fines for corporate manslaughter and increase penalties for credit card fraud.

Provisions including erasing juvenile records and diversion programs could have a big impact on communities like Springfield where nearly 60 percent of youth are at risk of engaging in risky behavior.

“We have to realize that the criminal justice system was meant to be punitive but to rehabilitate,” State Rep. Bud Williams (D-Springfield) told 22News.

The House will likely debate the bill next week.