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Democratic state lawmakers propose changes to criminal justice system

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BOSTON - Democratic state senate leaders laid out sweeping changes to the state's criminal justice system Thursday.

“Massachusetts has done a lot, but there's just a whole lot more to do,” said Sen. William Brownsberger.

The proposed changes are widespread, including ways to deal with juveniles arrested, providing treatment to criminals so they don't become repeat offenders, and getting rid of mandatory minimum sentences.

SCROLL TO SEE THE BILLS

The changes follow a FOX25 investigation last fall that showed many people arrested for crimes, but not convicted, were being held in jail for long periods of time.

Some said the current system punishes the poor, not because they're a criminal risk, but because they can't afford their bail. The consequences are life altering.
               
“Is there a better way to get them the help they need?” asked Sen. Kenneth Donnelly.

Donnelly is trying to find a way to solve the problem and said he's pushing to change the pre-trial process.

“We need to look at the cases and what people have done. Whether they deserve to be out or not out and the only way we can do that is by the judges looking at these cases,” he said.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen echoed that, saying the answer lies in putting suspects waiting for trial not in jails, but in community correctional facilities.

“It would keep people from losing their communities, their jobs and their families while they're incarcerated,” she said.

The senators are looking at other states, like New Jersey and Texas, to see how their bail systems function.

The changes will have to be passed in the State House, and it’s not clear how Republicans and the governor would feel about them.

REFORM BILLS

Pre-Trial Reform

Juvenile Justice Reform

Community Based Sentencing

Decriminalization of Minor Offense

Prison Overcrowding

Expanding Sentencing Options

Eliminating Mandatory Minimums for Drug-Related Crimes