A bill that toughens sentences for violent repeat-offenders passed the State Senate on Thursday after it was overwhelmingly passed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives Wednesday evening.
Also known as the "three-strikes" law, the bill passed the House with a vote of 139-14. In the Senate, it passed 31-7.
Stoughton's State House delegation - Louis L. Kafka (D-Stoughton) and William C. Galvin (D-Canton) in the House and Brian A. Joyce (D-Milton) in the Senate - all voted in favor of passing this law.
The following is a press release from the office of Rep. Galvin announcing the passing of this crime bill:
State Representatives William C. Galvin (D- Canton) and Louis L. Kafka (D-Stoughton) joined their colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature in passing a sentencing bill that cracks down on habitual offenders and establishes new requirements to improve the functions of the state parole board.
Under this legislation, a person is deemed a habitual offender after they are convicted of two crimes from a list of serious offenses, including murder, rape and kidnapping. It mandates that any habitual offender found guilty of a third offense from the list of serious crimes would be ineligible for parole and would serve the maximum sentence for the crime for which they are found guilty.
The legislation also closes a loophole that currently prevents federal sentences from counting toward habitual offender status.
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.
“This bill takes a balanced and common sense approach to sentencing that will keep the most violent offenders off our streets,” commented Representative Galvin.
“It’s a comprehensive, measured bill that makes the Commonwealth safer, and I was pleased to join my colleagues in sending it to the Governor’s desk,” said Representative Kafka.
The bill tightens regulations regarding parole by raising 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.
This legislation also requires the parole board complete a risk/needs assessment before granting a parole permit and it gives the Governor the authority to remove members of the parole board.
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.
The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.