The Criminal Justice Policy Coalition has launched a campaign to repeal current Massachusetts law that imposes life sentences with no possibility of parole. Our aim is to secure legislation mandating parole review after 25 years of incarceration regardless of the offense.
The campaign reflects a policy adopted in 2003 by the CJPC membership supporting the possibility of parole for all who are imprisoned.
Life without parole (LWOP) is an automatic sentence for those convicted of first degree murder. Since 2012 it has also been mandated for anyone convicted of one of 18 non-homicide crimes carrying a potential life sentence when that conviction is the third for a felony offense.
In addition, felony murder/joint venture equates to first degree murder for all participants, thus carrying a sentence of LWOP. This sentence applies equally to those who did not “pull the trigger,” and may not even have known a weapon was present, or who had an ancillary role in the crime such as serving as a get-away driver or look-out.
It should be understood that the possibility of parole is not a guarantee of parole. The proposed legislation would offer the chance for those who are incarcerated to demonstrate that they understand the damage their crime has caused and who have successfully rehabilitated themselves, thereby demonstrating that they can function as a productive member of the larger society while under parole supervision.
The CJPC has produced an extensive analysis of this issue, called Life Without Parole: A Reconsideration, which can be found HERE. We are working on a model bill abolishing LWOP , which will be posted soon.
Through a petition available HERE, the coalition is seeking support from the public in its campaign to convince the Massachusetts General Court to consider legislation abolishing all LWOP sentences. Please support us by signing this document and encouraging others to do so. The CJPC anticipates presenting this petition to select legislators in the coming months with the goal of producing a bill for consideration in the legislative session starting in January 2019
United Church of Christ Resolution Calls For End To Life Without Parole Sentences
The following Resolution calling for an end to life without parole sentences in Massachusetts was overwhelmingly adopted by an estimated 500 delegates to the annual meeting June 16 and 17 of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. The UCC is the largest Protestant denomination in Massachusetts.
The UCC Resolution, in which the key passages are in lines 39-41, was introduced and defended by George Oliver and Jon Tetherly, both of whom are UCC pastors as well as members of the CJPC's LWOP subcommittee.