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Issues & Victories

Criminal Justice



A Win for GBIO: Expanded Massachusetts Senate Bill Includes All of GBIO Criminal Justice Reform Priorities


On May 18th, GBIO celebrates the leaders of the Criminal Justice Team’s
In-District Meeting campaign

The Senate bill, introduced September 29 by State Senator William Brownsberger, addresses all four of GBIO’s issues: repealing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, pretrial and bail reform, reducing/eliminating fees and fines, and shortening length of time spent in solitary confinement — the result of 9 in-district meetings with 23 State Representatives and Senators by over 60 GBIO Leaders. GBIO wants to see the Senate bill do more on mandatory minimums, and will continue to fight for deeper reforms.



In Boston, GBIO Leaders Secure New Ally on Criminal Justice Reform

Mardi Fuller, of GBIO, leads Dorchester and South Boston district meeting with State Senator Forry at 4th Presbyterian Church

On June 28th, GBIO leaders completed a city-wide In-District Meeting with State Senator Linda Doreen Forry, securing her commitment to support reform around solitary confinement, an issue she did not formerly support.

When Forry argued that local county sheriffs think the reform would threaten the safety of inmates, constituents won Forry’s support by countering that, in fact, the use of solitary confinement itself represented a threat to inmates’ safety and mental health, by keeping inmates locked up 23 hours a day for extended periods, in cells the size of a parking spot.

The meeting with Senator Forry was the 8th of 9 In-District meetings organized since May 2017 as part of GBIO’s Criminal Justice Reform Campaign. The campaign builds support for 4 legislative priorities: Repeal of Mandatory Minimums for Drug Offenses, Pretrial and Bail Reform, Reduction/Elimination of Excessive Fees and Fines for Returning Citizens, and Elimination of Excessive Use of Solitary Confinement without Oversight and Data Collection.

Since May, GBIO has trained 60 congregational leaders, who have planned and organized meetings with over 15 legislators. Following the success of these In-District meetings, 30 leaders have been trained to extend GBIO’s efforts outside of Boston districts.

Representative Russell Holmes (far left) at 4th Presbyterian Church In-District Meeting lead by GBIO team

In-District Meeting at 4th Presbyterian Church with Representative Russell Holmes and the staff of Representative Dan Cullinane

In the News


GBIO Clergy Show Up in Force Hours Before Massachusetts State House Vote on Criminal Justice Bill

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Greater Boston Interfaith Organization


GBIO clergy leaders push for criminal justice reform at the Massachusetts State House

GBIO clergy showed up in force in a rally pushing for changes in Massachusetts criminal justice laws. In the final hours before a House vote on criminal justice reform, close to 200 clergy stood together with Retired Judge Nancy Gertner and several House representatives, calling for a criminal justice system that addresses racial and income disparities in sentencing, removing fees and penalties that keep people trapped in the prison system, and urging the state to spend tax dollars on treating, rather than punishing low level drug offenders with addictions and/or mental health issues.

Majority Whip Byron Rushing thanked GBIO for the work they’ve done so far, and urged GBIO to keep the pressure on during the last hours of debate. The bill passed by a vote of 144-9 on November 14th and now sets up a potential compromise between the state House and Senate to iron out differences in their two respective criminal justice reform bills before sending a bill to the desk of Governor Charlie Baker. Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg fulfilled his February 2017 commitment to push through GBIO’s platform on criminal justice, and if the House and Senate find a compromise, it could be the first major effort to pass comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation in many years.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KwJ1aK3JYg&sns=em


Hudson County, NJ Prosecutor Commits to Two-day On-Site Warrant Reconciliation Event with Jersey City Together

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Jersey City Together


Rev. Willie Keaton Jr. of Claremont-Lafayette United Presbyterian Church and Hudson County
Prosecutor Esther Suarez

At Jersey City Together's Fall action, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez committed to a two-day warrant reconciliation event that would help individuals with low-level offenses reconcile warrants. This event has come after months of working with the prosecutor and is modeled after Metro IAF sister affiliate East Brooklyn Congregation's work with Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson on a similar event at St. Paul's Community Baptist Church. Press coverage can be found here & here


Metro IAF NY Convenes Mental Health and Criminal Justice Experts, Hosts Forum to End Mis-Incarceration of People with Mental Illness

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Metro IAF NYC

On October 3rd, over 250 leaders from SBC, EBC, MT, and LICAN gathered at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Manhattan to learn more about steps taken across the country to end the mis-incarceration of people with mental illness who require treatment. Speakers included: Judge Matthew D'Emic, Brooklyn Administrative and Mental Health Court, Judge Steven Leifman, Miami-Dade Mental Health Court, and Leon Evans, behavioral health expert from San Antonio. As New York City embarks on a path to close Rikers prison and reform its criminal justice system, this forum worked to highlight innovative and successful criminal justice diversion programs in Brooklyn, New York, Miami-Dade, Florida, and San Antonio, Texas. This was an internal action to build a team of Metro IAF leaders capable of engaging with local District Attorneys and other key power players to begin making change in this area.


In Massachusetts, Jewish Leaders Call for Criminal Justice Reform

Friday, September 22, 2017
Greater Boston Interfaith Organization

42 rabbis and 6 cantors called on top Massachusetts leaders to support criminal justice reforms including: repeal of mandatory minimums, bail reform, reduction in fines and fees, and limits on solitary confinement. The religious leaders sent a September letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants, calling for a “criminal justice system that reflects the dignity of every human being.”

The Jewish leaders are backing bills on: bail reform by Rep. Dave Rogers (H 3120) and late Sen. Ken Donnelly (S 834); repeal of mandatory minimums by Sen. Cynthia Creem (S 819) and Rep. Evandro Carvalho (H 741); reduction in fines and fees by Rep. Mary Keefe (H 3077) and Sen. Michael Barrett  (S 755); limits on solitary confinement by Creem (S 1296) and Rep. Ruth Balser (H 2248), and collecting/reporting data on use of solitary confinement by Rep. Chris Markey (H 3092) and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (S 1286). 


GCC Gets Encouraging Updates on Reform from Cuyahoga County Prosecutor

Thursday, August 31, 2017
Greater Cleveland Congregations

 

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley provided written updates to Greater Cleveland Congregations about commitments made during the 2016 prosecutors election to reform the county's criminal justice system.  

Highlights of the report include:

1. Police Use of Deadly Force Policy - in all cases of police use of deadly force against civilians, Mr. O'Malley will request an independent prosecutor and investigation team to handle such cases.  This will minimize the chances of conflict of interest with the County Prosecutor attempting to investigate officers with whom his office has regular contact. 

2. Civil Rights Unit - in recent years, Ohio has seen a steep rise in the number of hate crimes.  The Civil Rights Unit, the first in the County's history, was established to review allegations of civil rights violations, including allegations of hate crimes and acts by public employees.  The Unit, which was set up in March, has already handled several cases.  One case involved the prosecution of an East Cleveland Police Officer for violating two women's civil rights during a traffic stop.  Another case involved the prosecution of a man for targeting another racial group.     

3. Drug Court/Diversion - Mr. O'Malley has submitted proposed changes to the courts that would significantly change eligibility requirements for Drug Courts and establish a new diversion program that would allow hundreds of new people to benefit from these programs, which upon completion vacate felony convictions, giving them a second chance at life.