In light of a bill before the state Senate and House to enact so-called "three-strikes" legislation, the Boston City Council came out today strongly against any law that would take away judges' discretion and increase the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent offenses.
"I'm vehemently opposed to Massachusetts modeling anything after the distater that is California's three-strikes law. The economic and human toll of California's three-strikes law is staggering," said At-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in an impassioned speech against the proposed state law.
The "three-strikes law" would compel judges to sentence anyone convicted of three crimes – in certain categories – to long prison sentences.
District 4 Councilor Charles Yancey proposed the council send a resolution to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the state Legislature to thoroughly study the implications, both financial and in human terms, the law could have on Boston.
The council, he said, needs to "tell the members of the House, the Senate, and yes, even the governor's office to slow down, study it."
While every councilor who spoke agreed the law was bad for Boston, most said that while they want to send a strong message to the state regarding the City's position, they did not support the resolution as currently written. Councilors instead wanted the issue to go to committee, where they could draft a more comprehensive message stating what they would like the legislature to do.
But while councilors were concerned about the state passing a law they viewed as draconian, they made sure to clarify that violent offenders should be behind bars.
"There's a difference to me between someone who is evil enough to assault a a person sexually or take a life, and someone who just made some bad choices," said At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo, echoing sentiments shared by other councilors.
The group agreed that in most cases involved nonviolent crime, a lifelong prison sentence is not a smart way to deal with crime.
"You can be tough on crime, and you ought to be, and you can be smart on crime, and you ought to be," said District 6 Councilor Matt O'Malley.