THE TOP HOUSE lawmaker on criminal justice issues is accusing the Baker administration of “outright resistance” to implementing the state’s criminal justice reform law.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael Day, a Stoneham Democrat, wrote to Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy on Thursday questioning the administration’s compliance with aspects of the 2018 criminal justice reform and 2020 police reform laws.
Day wrote that the committee, as part of its oversight responsibilities, undertook a review of the administration’s compliance. “This review has, to date, identified what appear to be some disturbing instances of noncompliance with both legal obligations and deadlines as well as outright resistance to clear statutory requirements and policy objectives,” Day wrote.
Day wrote that he is aware that Gov. Charlie Baker disagreed with certain parts of the laws, based on amendments the governor introduced. But, he wrote, “policy disagreements do not give the Administration leave to ignore the laws actually on the books.”
Day said in light of the governor’s initial hesitancy regarding parts of the law and “what appear to be subsequent efforts to erode its efficacy,” the committee “has grave concerns regarding the Administration’s willingness to implement the [Criminal Justice Reform Act].”
The letter cites several areas – most of which have previously been publicized – where Day is questioning the administration’s implementation of the law. In each case, he asked for detailed information regarding how the administration plans to comply.
As CommonWealth reported, the state has been slow in developing a new criminal justice tracking system intended to improve data collection. Day wrote that so far, the state has not even promulgated regulations to establish the common definitions needed to create the system, and has not made any data public, as the law required. “These failures are unacceptable and obstruct much of the modernization of our criminal justice system,” he wrote.
Day echoed the concerns some advocates have voiced that the administration is avoiding complying with new laws that give more rights to inmates in solitary confinement. “The Committee has learned that a number of DOC facilities and Houses of Correction have now instituted housing practices which result in the solitary confinement of inmates for up to 21 ½ hours a day, thereby evading the protections, limits, and transparency required for inmates held for just 30 minutes longer,” Day wrote.
Day questioned why the administration has not tested a backlog of old sexual assault kits. He also asked the administration about the findings of a report on Bridgewater State Hospital done by the Disability Law Center, which found mold in the facility and raised concerns about the use of “chemical restraints,” or sedating medication, administered to patients. Day is seeking information on how the Department of Correction plans to address the mold and what steps have been taken to reform chemical restraint procedures.
On police reform, Day expressed concern about a use-of-force policy established by a new police standards commission that appears to allow chokeholds, contradicting the law. He also questioned whether the commission had fulfilled its obligation to collect the training credentials and disciplinary records of current police officers to determine who needs additional training.
A spokesperson for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security could not immediately be reached Thursday evening.