Activists interrupt criminal justice meeting

Advocates worried reform bill won’t address sentencing issues

Activists interrupt criminal justice meeting

CHANTING “JOBS NOT JAIL,” advocates for criminal justice reform briefly disrupted the final meeting of a state criminal justice policy commission today, part of a growing chorus of voices expressing concern that state leaders are preparing to put forward legislation that won’t include major changes to sentencing laws.

The protest came as advocates and lawmakers gear up for what could be one of the most high-profile debates of the coming legislative session.

A state commission, aided by researchers from the nonprofit Council of State Governments, has been meeting for more than a year to develop recommendations to serve as the basis for criminal justice legislation that is expected to be filed next month at the start of the Legislature’s new session. But advocates are concerned that legislation will be limited to reform of probation and parole procedures and will not tackle mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders or other policies that affect how many people enter the criminal justice system or the length of sentences they receive.

“They’re focusing so much on the back end. They’re not talking about he fact that people are going to jail in such large numbers,” Calvin Feliciano, an activist with Jobs Not Jails coalition, told reporters outside the commission hearing. Feliciano, a union official with SEIU Local 509 who spent two years confined to the Department of Youth Services as a teenager, led the protest by several dozen advocates, who stood up and chanted during the meeting, urging the commission to broaden its review.

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