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Massachusetts Legislature Looks At Sentencing Reforms

An exterior view of the Massachusetts State House in Boston

Massachusetts legislators are planning to hold a hearing Tuesday on a proposal to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.

Critics of mandatory minimum sentences, who include Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants, say the policy is ineffective, unjust, and expensive.

But prosecutors, including Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, say it would be a mistake to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers.

" Because I think  we are sending the wrong message, particularly during this opioid crisis, that somebody  with 500-2,000 bags of heroin doesn't face any consequences," he said.

Sullivan and other district attorneys point to a review of records of inmates serving time for a governing drug offense in Massachusetts that revealed 73 percent had a history of crimes involving firearms or violence.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.