Voters in the Sept. 6 primary for the Democratic nomination for the Massachusetts State Senate, 3rd Middlesex District, the seat currently held by Sen. Susan Fargo, need to know how the candidates stand on one of the most critical issues in the Commonwealth today: The proposed habitual offender bill, also known as "Three Strikes."
I am completely opposed to the proposed habitual offender legislation. As a public defender, I have seen far too many cases where minimum mandatory sentencing has forced courts to impose unjust sentences which neither rehabilitate nor deter repeat offenses. The bill before the Governor would put more people in prison and keep them there longer, at a cost of nearly $50,000 per prisoner per year. The bill would deprive judges of any ability to depart from required minimum mandatory sentences for habitual offenders, regardless of the individual circumstances of the case.
We need to repeal minimum mandatory sentencing, not expand it. An overwhelming number of defendants are charged with crimes that arise from drug and alcohol abuse. William Bratton, former Boston Police Commissioner, has said that 90 percent of all crimes are related to drug and/or alcohol abuse. We are incarcerating non-violent offenders who need drug and alcohol treatment, education, job training, and counseling.
As a social worker, I understand how much better people want their lives to be, and how eager they are for the help they need to succeed. For less than what we pay to incarcerate non-violent offenders, we could provide the accused with social workers who could work with them to help them succeed, get the counseling, education, and job skills training they need so that they can give back to society.
There is no question that those who pose a danger to society should be kept in secure facilities. Judges should have the discretion to order those individuals held, in custody, where they will pose no danger to the public. But forcing judges to impose an unjust sentence that does nothing to either rehabilitate nor deter is not only ineffective and inexpensive, it's just plain wrong. It's time to get smart on crime, face the facts, and have criminal justice laws that solve the problems, not add to them.
Mara Dolan, Candidate
Massachusetts State Senate
3rd Middlesex District