Increase Parole in Massachusetts sign now

Dear Governor Patrick:

In the aftermath of the tragic murder of Woburn police officer John Maguire, we the people of the Commonwealth find ourselves in a moral quandary.Without a doubt the current parole system needs to be investigated and improved. However, vital decision making must not be ruled by paralyzing fear and sledge hammer remedies.

Since the December 26, 2010 tragedy, fingers of blame have pointed everywhere, but mostly at the Massachusetts Parole Board.We want you to be aware that your sweeping action against the parole board is setting the stage for a public safety disaster. No matter what prisoners' disciplinary records are, no matter how thoroughly they are rehabilitated, no matter how many programs they have successfully completed and no matter how long they have lost their liberty, your new parole board is not going to let them out. Why? The perceived political risk to you and your administration. The result? The tragic and dangerous loss of hope for parole-eligible prisoners and their families. Cutting back on parole will also result in increased overcrowding at a time when prisons are already well over 40\% of their capacity.

We are mindful that fingers must not be pointed at the Parole Board alone. We, the public, must look deeply at ourselves. We have consistently measured public safety by the number of law enforcement personnel and prisons we have.The Massachusetts Department of Correction, for example, has a ratio of one staff person for every two prisoners.The average annual cost for incarcerating a person in a state prison is $47,000.Meanwhile, we have slashed funding for public education, substance abuse treatment and community mental health programs, services that can help to keep people out of prison in the first place. Our priorities are twisted.

We all need to take responsibility for directing our resources toward restoring and supporting each other's vitality and healthemotional, mental, financial and physical. We are depriving Massachusetts' communities of strength as we do nothing to alter the current trend of alienating individuals, adults and children alike, who are trying to rebuild their lives. With appropriate care,guidance and training, these communities can significantly increase their strength. This will never happen if Massachusetts continues its long-term policy of pouring more and more resources into a massive prison for all of us, no matter which side of the barbed wire we live on.

Governor Patrick, what we need is a culture shift that will put us on steady moral ground.We, as a Commonwealth, can learn from our mistakes and change. We must achieve a form of justice that goes beyond punishment. We can create transformative justicejustice that brings true healing. Healing is needed for the wounded as well as the perpetrators, many of whom are wounded themselves. We need justice that transforms society in the process.Tragic histories, like the death ofJohn Maguire, cannot be rewritten.Nonetheless, we can set priorities and formulate policies that increase our chances of creating vibrant, safe communities.

We call upon you to reconsider your decision to bolster the parole system with yet more law enforcement.Instead, we ask that you look to people with expertise in psychology, psychiatry, sociology, social work, justice and law (other than enforcement) who can introduce fairness and restorative services to those eligible for parole. We ask that you listen to the expert voices of those most impacted by the current penal system, those who are currently and formerly incarcerated, as well as their families. We want our neighbors to be ready to reenter, contribute constructively and be supported in their efforts.

Like you who got a second chance with a second term as our governor, let's make sure others have a second chance, too.

We the People

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