State Sen. Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, and Rep. Ken Gordon, D-Bedford, both of whom represent Bedford in the state legislature, joined their colleagues in passing criminal justice reform legislation that will lead to a more equitable system that supports young and vulnerable residents, reduces recidivism, increases judicial discretion and enhances public safety.
The bill, an act relative to criminal justice reform, includes many provisions championed by Barrett to address fines and fees that engulf criminal defendants, a problem he has highlighted in his own work. It also includes reforms led by Gordon that allow first-time offenders in some situations to avoid prosecution in a program called Restorative Justice. The legislature also passed an accompanying bill, an act implementing the joint recommendations of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Review, which is designed to complement the comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation. This bill allows individuals to earn early release by participating in recidivism-reduction programs.
“The compromise states that a defendant may not be incarcerated for failure to pay fees if paying would cause severe hardship,” said Barrett. “People are guaranteed a right to a lawyer at ‘fine time’ hearings and defendants deemed indigent will have an associated $150 fee waived.”
“This compromise legislation takes a measured approach to criminal justice, increasing the penalty for such offenses as trafficking in fentanyl and carfentanil, synthetic opioids that threaten our community, while providing an avenue for people with low-level, non-violent drug offenses to get the help they need,” Gordon said. “It increases the penalties for serial offenders convicted of drunk driving but eliminates mandatory-minimum sentences so that discretion can be restored to judges who preside in our courts.”