Massachusetts overhauled its criminal justice system this year, passing a bipartisan reform package that contains positive changes for incarcerated people.See Massachusetts SB 2371 (2018). Also see Steve LeBlanc, “Gov. Baker Signs Sweeping Criminal Justice Overhaul Bill,” U.S. News & World Report, April 13, 2018; and Steve Brown, “7 Key Provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill,” WBUR, April 6, 2018.
The law establishes a new medical parole program that sets out procedures for incarcerated people with terminal illnesses, among other health conditions, to apply for early release.Massachusetts SB 2371 (2018). The state now limits the use of restrictive housing, known as solitary confinement, as a means to segregate people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. People in restrictive housing must also have access to vocational, educational, and rehabilitative programs.Massachusetts SB 2371 (2018). Legislators focused on the needs of young adults, authorizing special prison units for those 18 to 24 years old.Massachusetts SB 2371 (2018). And transgender people must, unless there are valid health, safety, or security problems, be housed in a correctional facility appropriate for their gender identity.Massachusetts SB 2371 (2018). The reforms also call for the creation of commissions to study the effects of incarceration on young adults and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and to observe and help correct racial disparities in the justice system.Massachusetts SB 2371 (2018).