;All people accused of a crime are entitled to the presumption of innocence; women currently held on bail or probation detainers should be released from pre-trial incarceration and permitted to fight criminal allegations from a place of freedom. Pretrial incarceration coerces pleas, disrupts lives (family relationships, social supports, treatment regimens, access to medication, employment and education), reduces economic opportunities, and exposes people to longer sentences and harsher punishments.
Medical & compassionate release
Women who are suffering from severe, debilitating or terminal medical conditions should be released to their loved ones; incarcerating women who are sick and infirm is tortuous to them, is cruel and unusual punishment, and does not make our communities any safer.
All people accused of a crime are entitled to the presumption of innocence; women currently held on bail or probation detainers should be released from pre-trial incarceration and permitted to fight criminal allegations from a place of freedom. Pretrial incarceration coerces pleas, disrupts lives (family relationships, social supports, treatment regimens, access to medication, employment and education), reduces economic opportunities, and exposes people to longer sentences and harsher punishments.
The Governor has a virtually unlimited power to commute the sentences of women who have served long sentences, who are aging, who are survivors of violence and trauma themselves, and who are ready to come home and live their twilight years with their families.
De-fund Dept of Correction and Police
The solution is to shift power and resources away from law enforcement and incarceration and into Black and Brown communities through a community-controlled process led by most-impacted people.
Invest in community alternatives
Organizations like Brookview House are working to create programming for criminalized and vulnerable women. Instead of ever-increasing spending on incarceration—even as the number of incarcerated people decreases—the Commonwealth must divest from prisons, jails, prosecutors, and police and invest in affordable housing, rental assistance, low-barrier drug treatment, harm reduction, cooperative living spaces, and what people need to heal, be safe, and thrive.
We have been advocating to set up a real, meaningfully funded participatory budgeting process with money taken out of the Department of Correction and
Sheriffs budgets – budgets that continue to inflate every year at the expense of our people. We created the Love Fund.
Support initiatives led by formerly incarcerated and directly impacted women
To break cycles of trauma and undo historical oppression, the Commonwealth must invest especially in projects, organizations, and solutions cultivated by the most directly affected women. Fund supportive housing. Fund community-based reentry programs. Fund healing circles. Fund affordable childcare and day-care. Fund living-wage jobs.
Women should be diverted out of the criminal punishment system and given access to appropriate therapeutic placements that are responsive to the source of their criminalization: mental health and substance use treatment, stable housing and rental assistance, economic opportunity, other forms of therapy and healing.
The Commonwealth must invest in community-based alternatives to meet women’s needs, help them heal from trauma, and enable processes of restoration and accountability. There is already a blueprint for women facing criminal prosecution who care for dependent children to be sentenced to a community placement: the vanguard Primary Caretakers legislation was signed into law in the Commonwealth at the urging of Families for Justice as Healing in 2018. This legislation has become a model for other states around the country thanks to advocates with the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. People serving county sentences in Houses of Correction would not have to go before a judge to get access to a community-based sentence. Massachusetts Sheriffs have the power to enable people to serve out sentences in community placements. Medical & compassionate release: women who are suffering from severe, debilitating or terminal medical conditions should be released to their loved ones; incarcerating women who are sick and infirm is tortuous to them, is cruel and unusual punishment, and does not make our communities any safer.
Court debt forgiveness & default warrant reform
No one should be incarcerated or criminalized for unpaid fines or fees. Women who cannot afford to pay fees for indigent counsel, parole or probation supervision and monitoring, e-carceration GPS shackling, warrant removals, etc. should have those fees cleared, waived, and forgiven. Incarcerating women in order to collect on unpaid fines or fees is a waste of taxpayer resources and causes tremendous harm.
Instead of being arrested and jailed pre-arraignment, women should be given a summons and a court date as well as a voucher for transportation (and childcare, if applicable) to be able to reach court on the scheduled date.
We must repeal laws and ordinances that enact social control but do not promote community safety; we can decriminalize sex work; decriminalize drug possession; decriminalize common motor vehicle issues like driving on a suspended license, without registration, or without insurance (which comprise almost 30% of district and municipal court charges in the Commonwealth every year); repeal mandatory minimum sentences and sentencing enhancements; end life without the possibility of parole
Eliminating technical revocations
Probation and parole officers should not be allowed to imprison someone for a lapsed court condition or a missed appointment, without any new criminal allegation. Women should not be incarcerated for something that wouldn’t be criminalized if they weren’t already ensnared in the criminal punishment system.
Women who are suffering from health conditions—especially mental illness or substance use disorder must not be criminalized for medical issues, and instead should be diverted to appropriate therapeutic community-based treatment placements, without the looming threat of criminal prosecution or incarceration.