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On March 16th, Mass INC and CRJ hosted the second annual summit on criminal justice reform in Massachusetts.  Opening speaker Massachusetts Chief Justice Ralph Gants voiced his support for sentencing reform in Massachusetts. His belief is that the evidence supports that a change in practice to best serve the public is possible without compromising safety.

After a presentation about national trends in incarceration rates from a co-editor of the 2014 report from the National Academy of Science, two panels brought the conversation back to the local.  CJI’s Executive Director Christine Cole, moderated a discussion with four panelists about the topic of sentencing reform. Those panelists included national experts Richard Frase from the University of Minnesota and Julie Stewart from Families Against Mandatory Minimums as well as local leaders, the Hon. John Lu of the Massachusetts Superior Court and MA Sentencing Commission and state Sen. Will Brownsberger, co-chair of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary.The second panel, about justice for special populations, included CRJ’s President John Larivee, who spoke about working with individuals with challenging behaviors and their success in community settings. Another panelist, Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley, used his time on the special population panel to argue against sentencing reform, reflecting a perspective that seems to be common among the DAs from across the Commonwealth.   The session closed with remarks from Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Maura Healey who spoke at length about fairness and social justice as imperatives for the court system.