'Three Strikes' Inches Toward Compromise

By Sarah Birnbaum

Feb. 3, 2012

BOSTON — Political pressure is mounting surrounding the bill known as "three strikes." The measure, which is pending right now in a Massachusetts legislative conference committee, would deny parole to anyone convicted of a third violent felony.
Lawmakers are making some headway on the bill. Key House legislators said on Feb. 3 that they believed the House would be willing to include a Senate-backed proposal to scale back mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
Senate Republican leader Bruce Tarr serves on the conference committee. "I think we can look forward to substantial progress and at least on issues regarding multiple violent offenders and minimum mandatory sentences I would say within the next four to six weeks," he said.
Meanwhile, African American and Latino community leaders held a press conference blasting the bill.
Jamal Crawford, editor of Blackstonian, attended the event. He said the three-strikes provision would be bad for the black community:
"Black people go to jail at disproportionate rates to their black counterparts and that's not because black and Latino people do more crimes or do more drugs," he said. Rather, it's because the fragmented legal process "has herded black and Latino men into the prison system and, once they're there, makes it very difficult for them to leave."
Supporters claim the bill is colorblind. Analysts expect some version of it to pass this year, especially with the recent progress in conference committee.

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