According to a recent article on Masslive.com, the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission recently held a public hearing on the possibility of changing state sentencing guidelines. The hearing addressed a number of sentencing related topics, including whether Massachusetts should impose a period of mandatory supervised release on all individuals who are released from jail.
Advocates against the imposition of a such a release argued that it would be setting these released individuals up for failure because sufficient services necessary to help inmates return to society simply do not exist. The chief counsel of the public defenders specifically told the sentencing commission that mandatory supervised release would not work unless the infrastructure and services to help people succeed were put in place.
Although state policy makers have had discussions about abolishing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses, the sentencing commission is considering significantly broader changes to sentencing guidelines that could include both changing mandatory minimums, as well as a wide range of other modifications. Examples of the changes being considered include:
- instructing judges who must determine a sentence not to consider past convictions if a person has gone for eight or 10 years since the end of their last sentence without a new conviction
- adopting guidelines telling judges not to consider misdemeanors committed by juveniles as part of the criminal history used to determine an adult sentence
- creating an offense level of zero in the sentencing guidelines – essentially, labeling something a crime but not recommending a sentence of incarceration, probation or fines
- limiting the length of probation supervision and the length of sentences for probation violations
- creating a “safety valve” where a defendant is facing a mandatory minimum sentence which would allow a judge to can give someone a sentence that is below the mandatory minimum under certain circumstances