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In spite of “serious concerns,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed into law sweeping changes to the Bay State’s criminal justice system.
Provisions of the new law include rolling back mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent crimes, making it easier for ex-offenders to seal their criminal records and reducing fines and fees levied on ex-prisoners. The measure received overwhelming approval in both legislative chambers, and Baker was flanked by dozens of lawmakers as he signed the bill, which he said would “undoubtedly result in a better criminal justice system and give people across the Commonwealth greater opportunities to turn their lives around.”
But Baker also filed legislation calling for several revisions, including putting $15 million toward paying for new staff and technology he said would be critical to meeting the law’s mandates. In a letter, he warned lawmakers that the law could also have “unintended, negative consequences.”
He specifically pointed to a section of the bill that bars parents from testifying against their minor children, which in theory could prevent parents from giving evidence in criminal cases. He also argued for allowing police and other agencies to maintain access to some records and for a more narrow definition of a “serious mental illness” when deciding to put an inmate into solitary confinement.
It wasn’t clear when or if lawmakers would take up his proposals. Most are considered technical changes, but Senator William N. Brownsberger (D), who co-authored the legislation, called changing the parental testimony a nonstarter. House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D), meanwhile, was noncommittal when asked if the lawmakers would tackle the requests before adjourning in July.
“The Governor has raised some points, and I think obviously it will get a proper hearing. Where we go from there, I don’t know,” he said. (BOSTON GLOBE, BAY STATE BANNER)