Patrick’s crime bill includes more options for judges on sentences

Judges would see increased options when sentencing drug offenders, who would be able to work in new release programs and community work crews when paroled, under an anti-crime package filed by Gov. Deval Patrick last week.

The bills would also require post-release supervision for all offenders and aid them in job searches by changing the state’s criminal offender record information (CORI) system. Employers and housing providers would have to pay a $20 to $30 fee to access the information to fund the new system.

Defense attorneys at Dorchester District Court said they still needed to review the proposals, but offered up initial praise. Aviva Jeruchim, a defense attorney at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, said she was “very much in favor” of giving judges more discretion in sentencing. Businesses said the legislation would hamper their ability to see if potential employees had committed crimes.

“We’ve been working with the administration for months now, and it’s troubling in that they’re going off in a completely different direction and ignoring what we’ve been telling them about the need for employers to have access to this information,” Brad MacDougall, associate vice president for government affairs at the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, told the State House News Service.

With the filing of the bill, Patrick also filmed a YouTube video, a format he has used in recent weeks to criticize the Legislature for its pace on a host of reform proposals. Patrick said 20,000 prisoners return to communities annually, and those without supervision are more likely to commit crimes again.

“A system of mandatory post-release supervision helps reduce that repeat offending,” he said.

The proposal drew support from Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral.
“What this bill provides – post-release supervision, the use of effective re-entry programs, appropriate access to and fair use of CORI information – completes the public safety continuum,” she said in a statement.

The bills are now with Beacon Hill’s Joint Judiciary Committee, where a similar proposal filed by Patrick died last year.