I was horrified by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and angered by all the deaths caused at the hands of police because of the race of the victim.
Recognizing that we need to reform our criminal justice system is not a new issue to me. Since I first ran for office, it has been a top priority of my office. I have successfully worked on several aspects of criminal justice reform during my time in office, including increasing the training budget for police officers (H.3573), reforming bail to make it easier for courts to address negative conduct without giving people criminal records, increasing transparency for civil forfeitures, and creating a commission to review our bail statutes for reform with the hope of eliminating cash bail (H.3367). This term, I also led an unsuccessful effort to eliminate life without parole sentences, which disproportionately impact people of color, in Massachusetts to allow everyone a chance at parole (H.3358). That effort will continue next term.
This term, in January 2019, I co-sponsored and supported bills such as:
- 1343 An Act relative to treatment, not imprisonment
- 1368 An Act relative to enforcing federal law (to remove ICE involvement from local law enforcement)
- 1386 An Act relative to expungement, sealing and criminal records provisions
- 2047 An Act to strengthen inmate visitation
- 2088 An Act to ensure compliance with the anti-shackling law for pregnant incarcerated women
- 2141 An Act improving juvenile justice data collection
- 3379 An Act reducing recidivism and promoting family relationships during incarceration
- 3720 An Act relative to the well-being of new mothers and infants
- 3721 An Act relative to the expungement of records of marijuana arrests
During this pandemic, I co-sponsored many efforts to advocate for incarcerated people including:
- 5043 An Act relative to COVID-19 data in state and country correctional facilities
- 4562 An Act regarding de-incarceration and COVID-19.
Since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a new energy in the Statehouse to take on these issues. I have been in touch with my fellow legislators, particularly those in the Black and Latino Caucus, as well as community members, to understand and discuss the best ways to address police brutality.
I fully support the 10-point plan presented by the Black and Latino Caucus and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, as well as H.3277, which creates a new cause of action under state law against police officers to eliminate qualified immunity at the state level. I will do what I can to advocate for it to ensure that those goals are accomplished.
I have co-sponsored HD5128/SD2968 presented by my colleagues Rep. Miranda and Senator Creem. This bill would:
- Establish unnecessary force by an officer as a civil rights violation
- Create prohibitions on the use of choke holds, tear gas, and other dangerous “less than lethal” weapons and tactics
- Create a “duty to intervene” when an officer witnesses abuse of force
- Ban no-knock warrants
- Require data collection and reporting processes to prevent hire of abusive officers
I believe this bill is an important first step in addressing use of force and police brutality within the commonwealth. With that being said, I recognize that this is indeed a first step, and will continue to ensure that I have a racial justice lens with my work going forward, not just in the criminal justice area.
I heard you when people said, “enough is enough.” I fully agree. We have momentum and I am confident that the legislature will be able to make needed and long-lasting changes to address racism and police brutality. I will continue working for that change.
There are many good ideas out there and several important multi-part plans, including Campaign Zero, that are shaping my thinking.
If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions regarding these issues, now or going forward, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office.