FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 23, 2015
CONTACT: Peter Van Delft
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins today expressed his support for an effort led by Senator Sonia Chang–Diaz and Representative Mary Keefe to reform sentencing laws and expand job training programs through an omnibus bill.
The bill, “An Act to Increase Neighborhood Safety and Opportunity,” would restore a judge’s ability to exercise discretion over sentencing for drug offenses. Under current Massachusetts law, judges are forced to sentence non-violent offenders convicted of some drug charges to mandatory minimum sentences regardless of whether the time meted out is far more than the crime deserves.
“I thank Senator Chang–Diaz and Representative Keefe for having the courage to take a stand on these important issues,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “The truth is, we put far too many people in jail who should be remanded to diversionary, substance abuse or mental health programs. Restoring judicial discretion to drug sentencing would allow judges to determine the best punishment on a case–by–case basis.”
A 2013 study conducted by MassINC found that Massachusetts’ mandatory minimum laws have not been cost–effective. Governor Charlie Baker has also voiced support for repealing mandatory minimums for non–violent drug offenders.
“Sheriff Tompkins adds an important voice to this debate and I’m glad we have his support,” said Sen. Chang–Diaz.
The bill offered by Sen. Chang–Diaz and Rep. Keefe would also eliminate a current law that strips offenders convicted of non–violent drug offenses of their right to operate a motor vehicle for up to 5 years after their sentences are completed.
“My department places an intense focus on programs designed to help offenders improve their station in life and successfully re–enter the community,” Sheriff Tompkins added. “We need to hold people accountable when they break the law, but the harder we make it for them to come back into the community, the more likely they are to go back to their old ways and re–offend.”