Healey Urges Lawmakers To Overhaul Criminal Justice Laws

Attorney General Maura Healey is pressing lawmakers to make key changes to the state's criminal justice laws.

Healey urged lawmakers to repeal the automatic suspension of a person's driver's license after a general drug offense conviction, saying the penalty only ends up increasing the number of unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the road.

"Automatic license suspensions for non-vehicle-related drug offenses unnecessarily prevent people from rebuilding their lives, getting to work, and caring for their families," she said Monday in a letter to the chairmen of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

The recommendations came ahead of a public hearing on Tuesday.

Healey said she also supports eliminating statutory mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses, specifically those that fall short of trafficking and do not involve minors.

"History shows we cannot incarcerate our way out of this public health crisis, and we need smart reforms that will allow us to focus on treatment for those we are most able to help," Healey wrote.

Healey supports other changes in the law including increasing the threshold amounts of several property-related crimes and allowing sheriffs to be able to ask courts to transfer terminally ill or permanently incapacitated inmates to alternative facilities to receive medical services.

Beacon Hill lawmakers and community leaders are planning a news conference at the State House on Tuesday in support of legislation that would make some of the changes backed by Healey.

The bill would repeal mandatory minimum drug sentences and reduce certain low-level felonies - such as shoplifting, petty theft or more minor drug charges - to misdemeanors. It also would eliminate the law requiring the Registry of Motor Vehicles to confiscate the license of a person convicted of any drug offense.

The bill would take the money saved from the changes to create a trust fund designed to pay for job training and pre-apprenticeship programs for youths, veterans, victims of violence and other people with significant barriers to employment, an idea Healey supports. The fund also would back initiatives to discourage teenagers from dropping out of school.


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