Last December, a brave police officer was killed by a career criminal out on parole. A massive public outcry followed: Fix the System! Some states respond to these situations by launching thorough investigations. Others start passing poorly researched laws—and pay the price for years to come. Too bad our governor is leading us down the wrong path.
The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing estimated that if a three-strikes bill had been passed, the state would have had to build four new prisons, costing $800 million, to accommodate all the extra prisoners. And additional millions would have been required to house them behind bars.
We need to learn from Pennsylvania. More prison costs mean less money for education, healthcare, and other state services.
There is some hope on the horizon. This year, Cynthia Stone Creem, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and state Representative Kay Khan drafted separate legislation to create an oversight commission to study and make recommendations to improve the state’s criminal justice system. Recently, Creem’s proposal was signed into law. In an interview, Creem said she believes “we have some problems in our criminal assessment” of parole risk, but said that she does not want a three-strikes law like the one in California.
Massachusetts must move quickly to make sure parole reform is done in a sensible fashion. Time is short, after all — unless, that is, you visit a lonely room in Natick on Tuesdays, where lifers appearing before the parole board have nothing but time. Their hope is to be given a chance to join the 78 percent of successful parolees. Our hope should be a Massachusetts parole policy that works.