For Immediate Release: November 7, 2013
“Massachusetts is urgently in need of reform in its criminal justice system particularly in its current pretrial and bail practice,” notes Norma Wassel, chair, Steering Committee, Massachusetts Bail Fund, Criminal Justice Policy Coalition. “Many citizens, who have not been convicted of any crime and who are not a threat to public safety, are held in our jails at significant cost to taxpayers. Other states have found a better way through instituting a pretrial services model and it is time for Massachusetts to implement this effective tool for improving access to justice."
Tim Murray, executive director of The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI), Washington, D.C., and Elizabeth Simoni, executive director of Pretrial Services, Maine, will discuss the development of innovative pretrial programs and resources in many states during a special public meeting Wednesday Nov. 13th, from 1:30-3:30 pm at Suffolk University Law School, 120 Tremont Street, Boston.
“The Massachusetts Women’s Justice Network is especially concerned with the inequities and severe collateral costs many women and their families experience during the bail and pretrial detention processes in Massachusetts,” says Erika Kates, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women who leads the Network. “When women are arrested and held pretrial, their children are displaced immediately from their homes. Additionally, many of the women lose their jobs, are displaced from their communities, attorneys and ongoing mental health/substance abuse treatment, and because of all this separation from services they may become ineligible for public housing. With average pretrial stays of 60-77 days these collateral costs remain even when their cases are subsequently dismissed or continued without a finding.”
Kates reports that women’s pretrial conditions are worse than those of men in Massachusetts as more than half of the women in pretrial detention are held outside their communities in a state prison in the most overcrowded corrections facility in Massachusetts, compared to two percent of men who are held outside their counties. By removing these inequities and providing effective interventions for women who need them, the goals can be achieved without jeopardizing public safety and with considerably less expense than current practices.
This program is sponsored by the Clinical Legal Program, Suffolk Law School; the Massachusetts Bail Fund, Criminal Justice Policy Coalition; and the Massachusetts Women’s Justice Network, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College. Learn more about the Network and alternatives to incarceration: www.wcwonline.org/Projects/gender-and-justice-project-on-female-offenders.
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