November 20, 2012
Here is something to be thankful for! As you may recall, in August the Massachusetts Parole Board took the preliminary position that the new sentencing law does not apply to any drug offenders whose minimum sentences are greater than their mandatory minimums. FAMM is delighted to report that the final decision has now been made. ALL Massachusetts drug offenders serving a state mandatory minimum will be eligible for parole at an earlier date if the mandatory minimum for their offense was reduced by the new law. It does not matter how long their sentence is. Please see the updated fact sheet for a list of all offenses covered by the new law. This decision only applies to Massachusetts state prisoners.
Here are three examples of sentences involving a 5-year mandatory minimum. For all of them, the person is now eligible for parole after serving 3½ years:
- 5 years to 5 and a day, with a 5-year mandatory minimum;
- 5 to 7 years, with a 5-year mandatory minimum;
- 8 to 10 years, with a 5-year mandatory minimum.
In October, FAMM and other advocates met with Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), the Dept. of Correction and the Parole Board about the new law. We discussed questions that had come up about parole, earned good time and other issues (see below for more on earned good time). We urged them to interpret the new law as broadly as possible, so the greatest number of prisoners would benefit. We greatly appreciate the decision by EOPSS and the other agencies on parole eligibility. PLEASE NOTE: We do not know when this next round of parole hearings will start.
Keeping it real. Some drug offenders are now eligible for parole quite early in their sentences, such as the third example shown above. They may not be granted parole at that time. And no one is ever guaranteed parole. But at least they will be able to talk to the Parole Board about what will help their chances when they have their next hearing in another year.
Earned good time. As you may know, the Dept. of Correction recently issued a memo stating that the increased amounts of earned good time will go into effect as of November 1. FAMM believes that the increased amounts should be retroactive to August 2, when the law took effect, but it looks like that isn’t going to happen. We will continue to urge EOPSS and the DOC to apply this section of the new law as broadly as possible.
Please let us know if you have any questions. And have a happy Thanksgiving!
Barbara J. Dougan
Massachusetts Project Director
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)
Contact FAMM’s Massachusetts Project:
By phone: (617) 543-0878
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By mail: P.O. Box 54, Arlington, MA 02476