A Criminal Justice Win: Governor Baker Signs Bill
April 20, 2018
Last Friday, April 13, Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed into law major criminal justice reform. Since 2015, our partner Greater Boston Interfaith Organization has fought for paradigm shifting criminal justice reform in Massachusetts with priority on:
- Reduction in the use of Mandatory Minimums for drug sentencing .
- Reduction of fines and fees for probation and parole.
- Changing bail requirements for those unable to pay.
- Regulation and reduction in the use of Solitary Confinement.
We at Reservoir been really enthusiastic about participating in this work with GBIO. We recognize that in Massachusetts, people of color (particularly Black men) and poor people are disproportionately incarcerated and otherwise hurt by an impediments to justice in our criminal justice system. We hear Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:36 about identifying with those in prison and God’s call for us to pursue justice in our times in Micah 6:8 (and elsewhere), and we have felt compelled by our faith to act for comprehensive criminal justice reform. Here are a few ways we sought to partner with GBIO in their work:
- Reservoir partner and GBIO core team member Mardi Fuller worked closely on the GBIO criminal justice leadership team with Beverly Williams and Alan Epstein.
CJR bill out of conference. Smiles as we realized progress we made. Thank you @GBinterfaith for pushing forward and standing in place. We know the devil is still in the details and hope we pass the next hurdle with #CJReformMA pic.twitter.com/qLfsJzeiab
— Beverly Williams (@MizbevyWilliams) March 24, 2018
- A few key times last year, Reservoir members and leaders made phone calls to local representatives, hosted an in-district advocacy meeting with State Senator Pat Jehlen, and showed up in person at the State House to voice our support.
- In November, our Senior Pastor Steve Watson spoke at a rally at the State House, saying that it is core to the good new of Jesus that God doesn’t distinguish between rich and poor in our value, and that our justice system shouldn’t either.
Thanks to the tireless work of GBIO, particularly Beverly and Alan (co-chairs of the GBIO Criminal Justice Team), an imperfect but important law was signed by Governor Baker on Friday that includes: all four of the priorities stated above, decriminalizing youth below 12 years of age, CORI reform, medical release, data collection and reporting for more tranparency, and allowing juvenile records to be expunged after a period of time. It passed unanimously in the Senate and easily passed in the House before being signed by Governor Baker.
There is still work to be done in building a justice world, and advocating for the dignity of all people. But for right now we celebrate with GBIO! Reservoir Community, thank you for your financial giving (part of which goes to support Greater Boston Interfaith Organization), for your time if you volunteered or made calls, and for your prayers for criminal justice reform.