BOSTON/State House - Over 300 activists representing at least 65 community organizations and unions from around Massachusetts held a rally in front of the State House today in opposition to a proposed "Three Strikes" bill that they say will disproportionately affect low income communities of color and cause already overcrowded prisons to become even more overcrowded.
The bill, H.3818/S.2080, would mandate life imprisonment after a third offense from a proposed list of violent crimes. It passed the House and Senate overwhelmingly last fall - but its two versions are still being debated in Conference Committee before proceeding to the floor for a vote.
Proponents of the bill - including police and victim's rights organizations - say that it has been crafted to specifically limit the number of people that could be eligible for automatic life imprisonment to only a small number of very violent repeat offenders. They believe that without the bill, some violent criminals will be able to return to the streets and commit major - sometimes horrific - crimes again and again.
Opponents respond that the bill is unnecessary since there are already laws on the books to imprison repeat offenders for long periods of time, and that, if anything, there are too many people going to jail for minor nonviolent offenses - and being forced to stay there far longer than necessary by laws that have made the prison system more and more unfair to disenfranchised communities over the last few decades. They call for major reforms to the Mass. criminal justice system to make it more fair and humane.
After several speeches from political, religious and prison reform leaders, rally attendees proceeded inside the State House for a lobby day aimed at gaining enough legislative support to kill or significantly modify the bill.
For more information on the Mass. Three Strikes bill debate, check out
Proponents: "Melissa's Bill" Blog
Opponents: Boston Workers Alliance
This article is a news brief.