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City Councilors Urge State Not to Pass 'Three Strikes' Law

Councilors agreed the bill could be disastrous for Boston.

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.

Marilyn Caldero February 09, 2012 at 11:56 PM
California has three strikes. The Supreme Court upheld the Constitution and California must reduce the number of prisoners it packs in like feedlot cattle. California spends more on incarceration than on education. California actually sends people to prison for 25 to life for stealing a pizza. 25 years x $48,000 annually = $1,200,000--a pretty expensive pizza. Tax payers often support prisoners' children too. Wiser to reform the system and prevent crime than adopt tough/dumb-on-crime policies that make the prison profiteers rich, but never rich enough to be satisified. Prison profiteers, be they private, corporation prisons, prosecutors who win at any cost, scare tatic politicians hoping for votes, have a craving to continually lock up more and generate themselves more money and more power.
WesternCiv February 10, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Here's the list of violent felonies targeted by the Mass. 3-strikes bill: http://3strikeslaw.blogspot.com/search/label/ListFelonies As you can see, there is not one drug offense, misdemeanor, or non-violent felony on the list. The Mass. bill targets the very worst, most dangerous, repeat VIOLENT criminals. It is nothing like California's law. The bill is also called Melissa's Bill after Jamaica Plain resident Melissa Gosule who was brutally raped and murdered by a 27-time convicted violent criminal who was released after serving less than two years. Dominic Cinelli was released on parole despite his 74 violent felony convictions, including 3 life sentences, when he murdered Woburn police officer John Maguire. Do opponents of Melissa's bill seriously think that such dangerous career criminals shouldn't be locked up for longer? Hopefully the Boston City Council will become informed of the full FACTS, will meet with supporters of this legislation, and will not just take the hysterical and erroneous claims of bill opponents at face value. PS: the headline of this article is misleading. The City Council did not approve this proposed resolution, but sent it to its public safety committee for study. http://3strikeslaw.blogspot.com/

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