Joint Committee on the Judiciary
Boston, MA 02133
Written Testimony in OPPOSITION to House Bill4652: An Act Regarding Decarceration and COVID-19.
Dear Chairperson Eldridge, Chairperson Cronin, and members of the committee,
The Massachusetts Coalition of Police represents over 4300 police officers and police dispatchers across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. These hard-working men and women work day in and day out protecting your constituents from becoming victims of crime. If someone does fall victim to crime, it doesn’t matter whether it is a violent attack or a minor property crime, the victim always feels violated. Those effects can be long lasting. While it may come as no shock to you that the police are opposed to releasing criminals who are paying their debt to society, much of the reason for our opposition is due to the recidivism that is going to occur upon their release and the future victims that will result.
The reasons given to release these individuals relate to the spread of the disease in corrections facilities. Is it to be believed that these same individuals are going to follow government guidelines on social distancing and self-quarantine? These same individuals who have issues following statutory law as well as parole and probation restrictions? Should they be released to infect people outside of the corrections facilities if they happen to contract it while released?
This knee-jerk reaction to this temporary health crisis is going to have long-lasting negative impacts on our communities for which the benefit certainly does not outweigh the cost. Just because someone might not qualify for a dangerousness hearing due to their current charges, does not mean they are not dangerous individuals and a continuing threat to our communities. That seems to be the bar for most of the proposed release in this bill and it is not a sufficient bar to protect your constituents from further victimization.
The classifications for release eligibility are arbitrary and capricious. Just because someone cannot afford a cash bail of $10,000 does not make them any less of a menace and threat to your constituents. Just because someone is 50 years old or over does not make them any less of a menace or threat to your constituents. Just because someone possesses one of the comorbidity factors from the CDC guidelines does not make them any less of a menace or threat to your constituents. People who have not been able to pay fines or fees, or those who are incarcerated for violations of probation or parole have proven their inability to abide by the rules of society. There has never been a more critical time for our fellow citizens to follow the rules that have been set by the government in order to protect our law-abiding citizens from this virus.
The resources to be expended to classify these incarcerated individuals as to their eligibility would be much better spent ensuring our sheriffs and corrections officials are provided with the resources they need to properly maintain a healthy environment in their facilities.
The Massachusetts Coalition of Police respectfully requests that this honorable committee vote this bill UNFAVORABLE and end this proposed disaster waiting to happen.
Chairman of Legislative Affairs
Massachusetts Coalition of Police