BOSTON (AP) — House lawmakers would consider scaling back mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders in Massachusetts, a key legislator said Friday, opening the door to a potential compromise on a stalled sentencing bill that also eliminates parole for some of the state’s most violent repeat offenders.
Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, House chair of the Judiciary Committee, made the offer during a meeting of a six-member conference committee trying to bridge the gap between widely differing versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate last year.
“I think there is an opportunity here to reach some common ground on those issues,” said O’Flaherty, a Chelsea Democrat.
The bills approved in both branches include so-called “three strikes” measures that would remove the possibility of parole for inmates classified as habitual offenders because they have previously been convicted of two or more violent crimes.
But the Senate’s crime bill also included a range of other provisions not acted on by the House, including the elimination of some mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. The sentences have been criticized for clogging state prisons with non-violent individuals.
The Senate bill would also grant enhanced wiretapping power for prosecutors, require mandatory post-release supervision for all state prison inmates, and allow for the compassionate release from prison of inmates who are terminally ill.
House leaders have balked at the broader Senate crime bill, suggesting that the two branches limit the legislation to the agreed upon three strikes measure and consider the other elements separately.
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