Charles C. Yancey
Boston City Councillor
Contact: Kenneth Yarbrough – Chief Information Officer
(617) 635-3131 Fax (617) 635-3067 Page (617) 461-5548
For Release Wednesday, February 9, 2012
Councillor Yancey asks City of Boston to oppose Massachusetts’ three strikes proposal
Boston City Hall (February 9, 2012) – Boston City Councillor Charles C. Yancey yesterday presented to the Boston City Council a resolution, urging the Patrick Administration to explore the social and economic impacts of proposed three strikes, habitual offender, laws in Massachusetts.
Three strikes laws (a metaphor from baseball) are statutes enacted by state governments in the United States that impose life sentences to persons convicted of two or more serious criminal offenses. Nearly 30 states currently have some form of habitual offender laws.
Councillor Yancey, noting that the City of Boston stands to be directly impacted by decisions made at the State House, thanked community leaders for raising the level of awareness of the proposed three strikes laws in Massachusetts. “I don’t believe the City Council should remain silent. I am concerned that we’re going to close the doors on far too many people who, otherwise, may have an opportunity to receive treatment and rehabilitation,” he said.
Councillor Felix Arroyo, calling three strikes laws “bad policy,” urged the Council to take a unanimous stance against any measure that would condemn nonviolent people for life. Arroyo argued that the number of violent offenders is very small. “There’s a big difference between someone who is evil enough to assault a person or take a life, and someone else that is just making some bad choices and running with the wrong crowd,” he said. “I want this Council to be strong in stating that there are people who we believe can be saved. There are people we believe can be productive members of society,” he said.
Councillor Tito Jackson said he favored sentencing reforms that would eliminate discriminatory drug laws and costly prison sentences of nonviolent offenders. “I’d like to thank Councillor Yancey for bringing this issue fourth. I believe it’s a timely one,” he said.
Councillor Ayanna Pressley, who cited the failed three strikes legislation of California, said she envisions prison reform laws that would include access to treatment programs, mental health services, as well as employment training and employment placement. “We should demand a bill, which eliminates mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders,” she added.
Councillor Matt O’Malley, who previously served as director of legislative affairs for Suffolk County Sherriff Andrea Cabral, said he was very familiar with Suffolk County’s over crowded prison system. “The Council can and should play a role in [three strikes] conversation,” he said.
Yancey, who has attended thousands of funerals of innocent victims of crime and violence, said he did not subscribe to the concept of coddling criminals. “I’m talking about dealing with this issue in a smart way; not in a manner in which we’re going to do more harm than good,” he said.
Councillor Yancey’s resolution was referred to the Committee on Public Safety, which is chaired by Councillor Michael Ross, who commended Yancey for initiating the three strikes conversation on the Boston City Council and who expressed his willingness to deliberate the issue. “For the City of Boston to remain silent on this matter would be a problem,” he said.
Opponents of Massachusetts’ three strikes bill include the Massachusetts Legislative Black and Latino Caucus in the Massachusetts House, as well as the Nation of Islam, the NAACP, The Center for Church and Prison; Boston Workers Alliance, Boston’s Citywide Outreach Ministries, and the Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers.
Yancey said the Boston City Council has a responsibility to communicate with politicians at the state level its concerns regarding the impact of three strikes laws. “I don’t think there is anyone on this body that would like to see hundreds of people warehoused in our prisons, when what they really need is drug and alcohol treatment programs,” he said.
One City Hall Square • Boston • Massachusetts • 02201 (617) 635-3131
City of Boston
Boston City Councillor Charles C. Yancey
Resolution opposing proposed 3-strikes bill in Massachusetts
WHEREAS: Three strikes laws are statutes enacted by state governments in the United States which require the state courts to impose a life sentence (usually with the possibility of parole) to persons who have been convicted of two or more serious criminal offenses. Twenty-seven states currently have some form of habitual offender laws; and
WHEREAS: Because Three Strikes Laws disproportionately impact African-Americans and Latinos far more than white criminals, the laws are deemed to be unfair and discriminatory; and
WHEREAS: The rationale for decreasing crime through mass incarceration of violent offenders will ensnare the non-violent, the petty criminal, the drug dependent, and the mentally ill at an escalating cost of $47,000 per year; and
WHEREAS: Nearly 700 crimes in Massachusetts currently count as felonies, including breaking and entering, assault and battery on a police officer, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and unarmed robbery; and
WHEREAS: The Three Strikes proposal in Massachusetts, which supports massive long-term incarceration, will subsequently exacerbate an already over-crowded prison system and lead to an increased burden on Massachusetts’ tax payers; and
WHEREAS: Boston, like many other cities and towns is under increasing financial pressure to maintain a balance between the provision of basic neighborhood services and to fulfill labor contract obligations that include salary and wage increases, health care costs, pension investments, and other benefits for city employees; and
WHEREAS: Scarcity of resources has led to city budget constraints, thereby, causing: public school personnel lay-offs; inadequate environmental maintenance of city owned facilities; the closing and merging of public schools and community centers; as well as, downsizing and uncertain futures within departments, such as, libraries, police, and fire; and
WHEREAS: Opponents of the three strikes bill include the Massachusetts Legislative Black and Latino Caucus in the Massachusetts House, as well as the Nation of Islam, the NAACP, The Center for Church and Prison; Boston Workers Alliance, Boston’s Citywide Outreach Ministries, and the Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers; Be It Therefore
RESOLVED: That the Boston City Council, in meeting assembled, urges Governor Deval Patrick and the 187th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts thoroughly review and publish the findings of the social and economic impact that the proposed 3-Strikes Habitual Offender Bill may have on all Massachusetts’ cities and towns if passed and enacted.