Pubdate: Tue, 21 Aug 2001
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2001 Globe Newspaper Company
Authors: Martin Rosenthal and Geoffrey Packard


Regarding the Aug. 14 editorial "Nonsensical sentencing" and the Aug. 10 
news story "Sentencing plan seen costing $900m plus and swelling prisons":

Thank you for exposing the obvious flaws of the district attorneys' and 
governor's sentencing guidelines bills. However, it isn't true that the 
work of the [Massachusetts] Sentencing Commission has never been enacted, 
in part, "because defense attorneys deem the guidelines Draconian."

Although we have some reservations, the Massachusetts Association of 
Criminal Defense Lawyers has publicly supported the Sentencing Commission's 

To its credit, the Sentencing Commission's bill retains some discretion for 
judges, subject to appeal by either side; it provides the possibilility of 
relief from truly "Draconian" mandatory minimum sentences in drug cases 
(again, subject to appeal); and its projected impact would -- provided the 
Commission's studies are accurate -- be neutral on the prison system.

The bill's major flaw -- permitting unlimited, unappealable "piling on" of 
consecutive sentences for multiple charges -- can easily be fixed.

Your other observation about why the guidelines have languished is 
accurate: DAs refuse to relinquish their unbridled discretion -- to charge, 
to not charge, or to plea bargain -- in drug cases  that ostensibly carry a 
mandatory sentence.

And their "tough on crime" insistence on harsher guidelines would result in 
a wholesale increase in prison populations.

The Commission's analysis of the district attorneys' and governor's 
proposals, unmasking fiscal and criminological absurdities, should lead to 
their rejection.

A similar analysis must be done of any purported "compromises" before they 
are voted on.

Martin Rosenthal,
Geoffrey Packard,
Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers,
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