House, Senate set to hammer out criminal justice compromise
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts House and Senate lawmakers are set to begin the tricky task of hammering out a single compromise version of a sweeping overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.
The separate proposals approved in each legislative chamber call for a wide range of changes to how the state deals with crime and punishment issues, from revamping the bail system to setting limits on solitary confinement.
House lawmakers passed their version of the bill on a 144-9 vote late Tuesday. The Senate approved its own version of a criminal justice overhaul on a 33-6 vote last month.
Among several amendments adopted by the House was a measure to raise the threshold for which a larceny is considered a felony to $1,000, up from the current $250.
That’s slightly lower than the $1,500 threshold in the Senate bill. That’s just one area where the two chambers will have to work out a deal.
The House also voted to impose a one-year minimum sentence for assaulting a police officer.
State Rep. Claire Cronin, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said the House bill is intended to give people opportunities to rebuild their lives, while also ensuring public safety.
“The reforms made in this bill address all aspects of the criminal justice system from a person’s first contact with the criminal justice system, up until an individual leaves the system and re-enters society,” said Cronin, a Democrat from Easton.
Other key differences between the House and Senate bills include the treatment of juvenile offenders.
The Senate bill would raise the age at which juvenile court jurisdiction ends from 18 to 19. The House version did not increase the age.
The minimum age for criminal responsibility would be raised from the current age 7 to age 10 under the House bill. The Senate sets the age at 12.
Advocates for criminal justice reform praised some of the measures in the bills, including lowering some fines and fees and fully expunging certain juvenile criminal records. Currently Massachusetts only allows records to be sealed, not expunged.
Legislative leaders hope to release a final version of the bill by early next year.
The two chambers must approve a single version to send to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker for his consideration.