End Mass Incarceration Update November 2017

HALLELUJAH! The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (G.B.I.O.) State House rally on Monday November 13 led into a resounding vote for comprehensive criminal justice reform late Tuesday evening. We have reached a new turning point in this social justice effort, dating back before the June 2015 United Parish All-Parish meeting vote to oppose mass incarceration.

Nearly 200 people – including United Parish representatives -- attended the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s rally that began with the group singing “Amazing Grace” and ended with a spirited rendition of “Nobody’s Going to Turn Me Around.” Islamic, Jewish and Christian religious leaders addressed the crowd, joined by three State Representatives and others. The United Parish (not a G.B.I.O. member) was recognized in the introductions, and we held the United Parish “End Mass Incarceration” banner outside the State House to welcome people arriving for the rally.

Meanwhile, inside the House chamber, State Reps. quickly voted unanimously for the “Council of State Governments (CSG) bill” filed by Governor Baker that takes more limited but helpful steps forward. Then attention turned to the broader reform bill on the floor, that advocates sought to strengthen with amendments filed in advance by supportive State Reps. (212 total amendments). The debate bogged down at times on Monday and Tuesday, but after 9:00 pm on Tuesday the House of Representatives passed the bill by a 144 - 9 vote.

What’s next? The state Senate had voted for an even more comprehensive bill on October 26 (27 – 10 vote). A Conference Committee will now be appointed to put together a final text, which must then return to both the Senate and House. Assuming a final favorable vote, the enacted bill goes to Governor Baker for his signature. Reform advocates will soon regroup to discuss how to approach this stage of the process. More information about the content of the bills will be forthcoming after the text of the House bill is publicly available.

Citizen input was crucial. Everyone agrees on this! Reform would not have happened without sustained citizen input on the issues plus all of the calls, visits, and emails to our elected representative together with the many rallies, such as the large Jobs Not Jails rally on November 1 and other Jobs Not Jails rallies dating back to 2015 that United Parish joined.

Thanks to the United Parish congregation for its support for social justice. And we need to organize thank you notes to our legislators who worked hard for reform.