Commonwealth of MA Moves to Reform the State’s Criminal Justice System

On February 21, Governor Charlie Baker filed a bill as part of an effort to reform the criminal justice system in Massachusetts. “Over half of the people leaving our Houses of Correction and state prisons wind up back in the court system at some point after their release,” Baker said. If passed, the bill will allow some inmates convicted of nonviolent drug crimes to reduce their time behind bars upon successful completion of various programs.

Gov. Baker’s bill is part of a larger initiative to reform the state’s criminal justice system. Other changes being discussed include eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes and expunging criminal records for juveniles. Lawmakers are also considering increasing the age of “juveniles” from 18 to 21. The proposed bill would raise the age one year at a time over a three year period.

Will Mandatory Minimum Sentences Be Eliminated?

Should individuals convicted of nonviolent drug crimes face the same mandatory minimums as violent offenders? Some MA lawmakers have been saying no for years. “Judges ought to have the ability to look at all the facts when they do sentencing,” said Senator Cynthia Creem, D-Newton. Consulting a MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine how this new bill may impact your case.

Improved Diversion Program Opportunities for Adult Offenders

In MA, a juvenile charged with a drug crime will likely be fast-tracked into substance abuse or mental health programs, instead of to jail. However, this isn’t the case for adults. A proposed bill would permit certain young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 to have the same opportunity. The goal here is to allow young people who may have just made a mistake to move on with their lives without a criminal record. Repeat offenders wouldn’t be eligible for such a program. If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, a Boston defense attorney can help you determine if you qualify for a diversion program.

Should a Juvenile’s Criminal Record Be Expunged?

As it stands, a juvenile’s criminal record is sealed after a three year period. However, certain individuals and entities (including college admissions officers and landlords) may still be able to access this information. A bill proposed by Senator Karen Spilka, D-Ashland would allow an individual with a felony offense committed prior to age 21 to have their record expunged upon successful completion of their sentence. “Over the years, we’ve heard story after story of young adults being prevented from getting jobs or housing or scholarships from college because of a prior criminal record that happened when they were a juvenile,” said Spilka. “Kids deserve a second chance.”


Too many people spend time behind bars for minor offenses because they don’t have the funds to cover bail. A bill proposed by Senator Ken Donnelly, D-Arlington, would change the bail system from cash-based to risk-based. Essentially, bail would be set based on the the defendant’s risk of committing another crime or not showing up in court. If those risks are low, the bail may be as well. “We need to make sure people who deserve to be in (jail) are in, people who don’t deserve to be in are not in,” said Donnelly. “It shouldn’t be how much money you have.”

Altman & Altman, LLP – Criminal Defense Law Firm Serving All of Massachusetts

If you have been charged with a crime, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. It is our goal to help you get your life back on track. That may mean helping you to expunge a past conviction or reduce a sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. We will analyze the details of your case to determine the best possible strategy for moving forward. Don’t let a mistake ruin your life. We can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

Contact Information