Senate bill 2078: An Act promoting Restorative justice practices
The idea for restorative justice legislation in Massachusetts came when Howard Zehr, the major proponent of restorative justice in the United States, held a public forum at the First Parish Church in Concord, MA. The event is well attended and Sen. Eldridge (D-Acton) offered public comments at a reception afterwards indicating his interest in submitting an “enabling” bill to expand restorative justice in the Commonwealth. He did exactly that in 2011. Between 2013 and the present several versions of the bill have been introduced. Each year the interest increases. A group of supporters, the Massachusetts Restorative Justice Coalition (MARJC) began to track the work of the bill and to help build capacity for support. Our RJ has participated in MARJC from 2014 to the present. Together with other MARJC participants, Our RJ has worked on improving the content of the bill, has repeatedly testified before both house and senate committees at public hearings and has assured that the voices of underrepresented communities of color who support restorative justice are heard as further modifications to the bill are considered.
Massachusetts Restorative Justice Coalition (MARJC)
Select Timeline of Restorative Justice legislation in MA
April 7, 2014
Howard Zehr holds a public forum at First Parish Concord on restorative justice. Event is well attended and Sen. Eldridge (D-Acton) offers public comments at the reception afterwards indicating his interest in submitting an “enabling” bill to expand restorative justice in the Commonwealth.
Sen. Eldridge introduces Senate Bill 41: An Act promoting restorative justice practices, a fairly stripped-down version. Not a lot of momentum but a good occasion to introduce the concept to some significant players including folks at the Attorney General’s office. Children Families and Persons with Disabilities report favorably to Senate Ways and Means where no further action is taken.
Sen. Eldridge reintroduces the bill, now Senate Bill 52, with some significant expansions of definitions and provisions in both juvenile and adult criminal code. Exclusions are for DV and sexual violence. By this time, a larger coalition of interest had developed – the Massachusetts Restorative Justice Coalition (MARJC). A monthly conference call of those interested in RJ Legislation takes shape.
Hearing with the Committee on Children Families and Persons with Disabilities takes place on Senate Bill 52. Great showing of folks. Written testimony also offered by Judge Jay Blitzman (Lowell Juv. Court), Rev. Mark Seifried (UCC), and ROCA, among others. Large group of police support also present. Middlesex DA Marian Ryan, and the Major City Chiefs, among others, write letters of support. Committee is overwhelmed with troubling DCF cases, among other things, and does not report the bill out as soon as hoped.
MARJC members blitz the hill with visits to key legislators to urge support of the bill.
Committee on Children Families and Persons with Disabilities reports out favorably, sends the bill to Senate Ways and Means. New number assigned: Senate Bill 2078.
A legislative briefing takes place on the hill with DA Marian Ryan, Chief Bongiorno and Hon. John Cratsley (ret.) on a panel. Standing room only! Many RJ supporters and practitioners present.
Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Lexington), and Sen. Eldridge host a pizza lunch on the hill aimed at reaching representatives…but senators’ offices are also present. Again, standing room only! “Restorative Justice On the Rise “, a podcast with international audience produces two shows on RJ legislation in MA. Word comes that the bill does not pass in the current session.
Additional modifications are made to the Bill introduced again on January 15, 2015 as Senate Bill 71.
RJ community members of color come together to make recommendations for further amendments to the Bill. Internal discussions with MARJC. May 14, Legislative hearing another full house of RJ supporters give testimony. Bill reported to Ways and Means. July 8, MARJC meeting with Sen. Eldridge to discuss potential further modifications to the bill.
Hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Packed again. Testimony given.