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Senate, House Approve Crime Bill; Send Final Legislation to Governor: Basile Supports Passage

BOSTON – State Representative Carlo P. Basile joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature today in passing a tough and balanced sentencing bill that cracks down on habitual offenders and establishes new requirements to improve the functions of the state parole board.

“Public safety is always a top priority, and the conference committee did their best to agree on a bill that takes some important steps forward in improving sentencing laws and parole guidelines,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “This legislation makes necessary changes that will keep the most dangerous criminals out of our communities and hold the parole board to higher standards.”

“I congratulate Chairman O’Flaherty, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and the conference committee for getting this bill done,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “We cannot continue to allow habitual offenders to terrorize and victimize our friends, loved ones and public servants. This strong, balanced bill represents a powerful deterrent to those who commit serious crimes repeatedly.”

“We thoughtfully deliberated as a conference committee to deliver a comprehensive, balanced piece of legislation that enhances public safety in the Commonwealth,” Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan (D-Leominster) said. “This bill is a strong first step in addressing sentencing for habitual offenders and I am proud of that. We are protecting all of our citizens by making our laws more stringent and uniformed which will send a strong message to those who commit the most heinous crimes.”

"This legislation is both tough and smart on crime and the Commonwealth will be a safer place because of it," said Judiciary Chairman Eugene L. O'Flaherty (D-Chelsea). 

“Today the Senate has taken important and decisive action to protect public safety and ensure that repeat violent felons have no opportunity for parole,” Minority Leader Senator Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester). “We are sending to the Governor’s desk a balanced bill which reforms sentencing for non-violent drug offenders, ensures transparency and accountability for the parole board, and guarantees that those sentenced to multiple terms of life will serve a real life sentence. It is time for these reasonable and critical changes to become law.”

“It has been my goal for over ten years, through the original filing of Melissa’s Bill and zealous advocacy, to pass legislation that ensures the most heinous and violent criminals remain behind bars in order to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth,” stated House Minority Whip Bradford R. Hill (R-Ipswich). “This legislation is balanced in a way that takes the initial step towards lessening non-violent drug sentencing and opens the door for further rehabilitation opportunities, which are currently not available.”

“This is important public safety legislation that targets a small number of repeat violent offenders who have proven their disregard for public safety in three separate violent crimes and ensures that they will not have the chance to offend again,”  said House Post Audit and Oversight Committee Chairman David Linsky (D-Natick). 

“This legislation will provide the justice system with a more efficient way of sentencing violent, habitual offenders and adds much needed reform to our parole system,” Representative Carlo P. Basile (D – East Boston), Vice Chairman, Financial Services, said. “With this bill, not only will heinous offenders be subject to more appropriate sentencing, but it will also reduce mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders which will help ease the burden on our prison system, thereby saving tax payer money.”

The bill requires the habitual offender tag to be placed on anyone convicted of two crimes from a list of the most serious offenses, including murder, rape and kidnapping. It mandates that any habitual offender found guilty of a third offense from the list of most serious crimes would be ineligible for parole.

The legislation also closes a loophole that currently prevents federal sentences from counting toward habitual offender status.

The bill raises the parole eligibility threshold to a two-thirds vote of the parole board from the current majority vote for anyone serving a life sentence and allows judges to set an imprisonment term between 15-25 years before an initial parole eligibility date. Inmates with life sentences arising from separate and distinct incidents would not be eligible for parole.

The legislation also makes the following parole board improvements:

* Gives the governor the ability to remove parole board members;
* Diversifies members on the discretionary parole appointment panel;
* Requires the parole board complete a risk/needs assessment before granting a parole permit;
* Requires certification that parole board members have reviewed criminal records;
* Requires tally of voting record of board decisions;
* Increases notification requirements when violent felons have a parole hearing; and
* Requires eight hours of annual training for parole board members.

The bill reduces mandatory minimum sentences for certain non-violent drug offenses under the Controlled Substances Act which will help alleviate prison overcrowding and save taxpayers money. Those serving a prison sentence under the Controlled Substances Act will now be allowed to participate in authorized vocational and educational programs.

The legislation also reduces school zone areas from 1,000 feet to 300 feet, which triggers enhanced mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses, and reforms DNA collection practices, alleviating a backlog in the crime labs and DNA database and assisting law enforcement and prosecutors.

Additionally, the bill includes two Good Samaritan provisions. One allows doctors to prescribe and dispense a potentially life-saving drug normally administered for heroin and other opioid overdoses to abusers and family members for preventative purposes. The second allows a person to come forward in good faith to a medical professional or member of law enforcement on behalf of someone experiencing an overdose without fear of being prosecuted.



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