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Joint Statement of Civil Rights, Community & Legal Organizations

In Opposition to H.66
“An Act to Protect the Commonwealth from Dangerous Persons”

July 17, 2019

Dear Members of the Massachusetts General Court:

The organizations listed on the reverse side of this letter were honored to work with
you on last year’s comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation. Among that law’s
many improvements were amendments to the state’s bail statutes that seek to prevent
indigent people from being held in jail while awaiting trial simply because they could
not afford bail. Jailing people before they have been found guilty can have disastrous
impacts on their lives: they can be fired from their jobs, be evicted from their homes,
lose custody of their children.

We are writing today to express our grave concerns about the Governor’s so-called
“dangerousness” bill, which will greatly increase the number of people who can be
held pre-trial and greatly increase the length of time that they can be held. These
people will be held not because they are unable to afford bail but instead on the
basis of a perceived but unproven danger to society.

Our law already allows for people accused of certain enumerated crimes to face a
court hearing on their dangerousness. If they are found to be dangerous, they can be
held pending a trial, which must occur within 180 days. This bill is much more
extreme: it significantly expands the list of crimes for which a person can be held pre-
trial, and it permits prosecutors to seek a dangerousness hearing if a defendant has
a prior conviction of any of the listed crimes — regardless of the date of that
conviction. It also relieves a prosecutor who has succeeded in holding a defendant on
dangerousness grounds of the obligation to bring the case to trial expeditiously,
which will increase the pressure on jailed defendants to enter a plea regardless of their
guilt or innocence.

Violent crime in Massachusetts has decreased in recent years, and last year’s criminal
justice reform act promises to reduce it still further. We urge you reject this bill and to
continue, not reverse, the progress we are making in creating a safer and fairer
commonwealth. Thank you for your consideration.
American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
Black and Pink, Boston Chapter
BLM Cambridge
Brookline PAX
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
Citizens for Juvenile Justice
Coalition for Effective Public Safety (CEPS)
Committee for Public Counsel Services
Criminal Justice Reform Task Force of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek
End Mass Incarceration Together, a task force of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action
Ex-prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement
Families for Justice as Healing
Greater Boston Interfaith Organization
Greater Boston Legal Services CORI & Re-entry Project
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Jobs NOT Jails
Massachusetts Bail Fund
Massachusetts Communities Action Network
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
Muslim Justice League
NAACP, New England Area Conference
National Association of Social Workers MA Chapter
Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts
New Vision Organization, Inc.
Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts
Progressive Massachusetts
Sex Offender Policy Reform Initiative (SOPRI)
The Real Cost of Prisons Project
Through Barbed Wire
Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Boston Branch

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