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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 18M: Criminal justice commission; members; areas of examination; technical assistance; information access; annual report

Section 18M. (a) There shall be a standing commission to study the commonwealth's criminal justice system which shall include: 3 members of the house of representatives, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the minority leader; 3 members of the senate, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the minority leader; the secretary of public safety and security, who shall serve as chair; the attorney general or a designee; the chief justice of the supreme judicial court or a designee; the president of the Massachusetts Sheriffs Association, Inc. or a designee; the president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association or a designee; the chief counsel of the committee for public counsel services or a designee; a representative from the Massachusetts Bar Association; a representative from the Boston Bar Association; a representative from the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Inc.; and 3 persons to be appointed by the governor, 1 of whom shall have experience in mental health and substance abuse and addiction treatment, 1 of whom shall have experience in providing services or supervision for offenders and 1 of whom shall have experience in juvenile justice.

(b) In reviewing the commonwealth's criminal justice system, the commission shall examine a variety of areas including, but not limited to: the prisoner classification systems; mandatory minimum sentences and sentencing guidelines, including the authority of the sentencing commission to revisit such sentences and guidelines; the provision of cost-effective healthcare in corrections settings; the probation and parole systems, with particular emphasis on their relative roles in pretrial diversion and post-release supervision; the operations of the offices of the sheriffs; conditions of confinement, including overcrowding in state prisons and houses of correction and the provision of health care and mental health and substance abuse treatment; recidivism rates; the treatment of juveniles within the criminal justice system; the impact of mental health and substance abuse issues; and best practices for reintegrating prisoners into the community, including an investigation of expanded community supervision.

(c) Where feasible, the chair of the commission shall apply for technical assistance from nationally-recognized criminal justice reform programs with a data-driven approach in order to develop legislation that would reduce corrections spending and utilize the savings to reduce crime, strengthen public safety and fund other budget priorities; provided, however, that the commission shall give priority in applying to those programs in which technical assistance comes at no cost to the commonwealth.

(d) The commission shall have access to information related to both adults and juveniles including, but not limited to, crime, arrest, conviction, jail, prison, probation and parole supervision data provided by state and local agencies; provided, however that any information sharing shall be in compliance with chapter 66A and shall be provided in a manner that meets all applicable federal and state privacy and security requirements. As necessary, the commission shall: (i) meet with affected stakeholders; (ii) partner with nongovernmental organizations that have expertise that can benefit the commission; and (iii) create advisory subgroups that include affected stakeholders as necessary.

(e) The commission shall issue annual reports not later than March 31 on its activities. The report shall include recommendations for legislation to reduce recidivism, improve overall public safety outcomes, provide alternatives for defendants with drug-addictions or mental illness, increase communication and cooperation among public safety entities, reduce overcrowding of facilities, increase reliance upon evidence-based criminal justice methods, improve the collection and reporting of data on adults and juveniles in the corrections system, contain correction costs and otherwise increase efficiencies within the commonwealth's public safety entities. The report shall also list methods used by the department of correction and sheriffs to measure recidivism rates for persons released from the state prison or a house of correction, including after the expiration of a sentence or if approved for parole. The report shall also include a uniform standard for comparing recidivism rates among the department of correction and the houses of correction. The data shall include, where available, a comparison to prior calendar years and any other information the commission deems relevant to measuring recidivism.