Criminal Justice Legislation
Criminal justice reform has always been a primary focus of mine. Thanks to the work done recently in 2018 with the Criminal Justice Reform omnibus bill, and the work of many organizations we are seeing remarkable successes in that area.
All of my criminal justice reform bills – in addition to many of those that I co-sponsored – share the philosophy that harsh, punitive, ‘tough on crime’ policies actually trap people in a cycle of crime and recidivism, where they spend their lives moving in and out of prison with no way to break the cycle. Research shows that by providing more humane sentencing and support to justice-involved individuals, we can help them to reintegrate into their communities, offering an opportunity to succeed and contribute to society, thereby reducing crime long term.
H.1713, An Act relative to sexually exploited individuals
Since 2011, there have been new developments in programs and best practices for not only human trafficking victims but also for people who are being sexually exploited. Upwards of 95% of adults in prostitution were sexually assaulted as children. The average age of entry into commercial sexual exploitation is 14 years old. This bill eliminates the crime for common night walkers, common street walkers, and whoever engages, agrees to engage or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee. The bill also exempts a sexually exploited individual whose body is solicited from the crime of soliciting.
H.3348, An Act relative to conducting a study on sexual offender recidivism
This bill would require a study on the rates of recidivism by sexual offenders to help determine whether the current classification system is accurately classifying offenders. A report is due by June 30, 2020.
Justice-Involved Youth Legislation
Our commitment to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable youth means critically examining our approaches and always striving to improve. By utilizing data-driven, evidence-based approaches, we can ensure justice involved youth have the necessary supports and services to lead healthy lives.
H.1386, An Act relative to expungement, sealing and criminal records provisions (with its counterpart S.900) will update the new 2018 law that allows for the expungement of criminal records for individuals whose offense was charged prior to their 21st birthday, by:
replacing the “one court appearance” language allowing expungement for cases that did not result in a conviction or adjudication; and for offenses leading to adjudication and conviction, allows the expungement of misdemeanors after three years and felonies after five years as long as there was no other conviction/adjudication within that time period;
reduces the offenses ineligible for expungement to those currently ineligible for sealing;
allows the transmission of juvenile records to the FBI only after an adjudication;
allows immediate sealing of juvenile records of disposed cases with non-adjudications;
extends the current law vacating the juvenile adjudications of youth committed to the Department of Youth Services to those whose adjudication did not result in a commitment; and,
ends the use of juvenile court “adjudications” as “convictions” that would trigger mandatory minimum sentences.
H.1486, An Act to reduce recidivism among emerging adults
This legislation (with its counterpart S.940), would infuse developmentally-appropriate, evidence-informed policies modeled after Massachusetts’ juvenile justice system into the adult criminal justice system to ensure positive outcomes for system-involved young adults and increase public safety. Specifically, the bill would:
amend the purpose statement of the criminal justice system to explicitly articulate rehabilitation as the goal for emerging adults by including language closely resembling the language pertaining to juveniles, with appropriate modifications; and,
codify the provisions in the regulations of the Department of Youth Services that apply to late adolescents and young adults so they would also apply to emerging adults held in the Department of Corrections and county Houses of Correction.
H.1481, An Act relative to codifying protections for sexually exploited children
The current statute still allows for the possibility of a minor to be arrested and prosecuted with prostitution related crimes if the minor does not comply with the mandated programs. No minor has endured criminal proceedings for this type of crime since 2015 but minors are still being arrested. This bill eliminates the requirement that court proceedings must begin again if the minor does not complete previously mandated programs.
A decision to terminate parental rights, remove custody or deny parenting time to a parent based solely on their disability status violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. This bill will require courts to determine if a parent’s disability causes actual harm to their child when a parent’s disability is relied on as a negative factor in a custody or parenting time determination. It also directs the courts to determine if the harm can be alleviated by adaptive equipment or supportive services for the parent.
This bill allows minors who are at least 13 years old to petition the court for a Protection Order to protect them from abuse and harassment. It also allows a parent, guardian or other appropriate adult to file for relief on behalf of the minor. The bill requires the court to appoint counsel for the minor.
H.3420, An Act to promote public safety and better outcomes for young adults
This bill increases the age of criminal majority from 18 to 21 over the course of the next 5 years.
In addition to cosponsoring many pieces of legislation targeting the system as a whole, I sponsored bills dealing specifically with women and children in our criminal justice system. Women and children who end up involved with the justice system have specific needs, and it is important that our system recognize that and provide for those needs.
H.1484, An Act for Health Education in Women's Correctional Institutions
This legislation makes information on women's health, contraception, and other information available to incarcerated women.
H.2481, An Act to ensure compliance with the anti-shackling law for pregnant incarcerated women
This legislation updates the original Anti-Shackling Law for pregnant incarcerated women to ensure compliance by requiring annual staff training; defining postpartum recovery as minimum of 6 weeks; authorizing medical personnel to determine that a woman is in labor; protecting patients in their care from restraint; and ensuring that instances of shackling are reported to the legislature and EOPSS. Senator Rebecca L. Rausch filed the companion bill, S.1653.