Massachusetts Sentencing Commission
The Massachusetts Sentencing Commission was established in April, 1994, by the "truth in sentencing" law, Chapter 432 of the Acts of 1993. The provisions creating the commission and establishing its mandates were revised and codified as M.G.L. c. 211E. The commission consists of fifteen members, including three judges, three prosecutors, and three defense counsel, along with representatives from the Executive Office of Public Safety, the Massachusetts Sheriff's Association, the Department of Correction, the Parole Board, the Office of the Commissioner of Probation, and the Victim Witness Assistance Board. The commission members were appointed in the spring of 1994 and held their first organizational meeting in June, 1994.
The mission of the Sentencing Commission is to promote truth in sentencing by formulating uniform sentencing policies, developing systematic sentencing guidelines, and integrating intermediate sanctions within the sentencing guidelines.
The Sentencing Guidelines
In April 1996, the commission submitted its Report to the General Court, culminating an intense two-year effort of research, debate, and deliberations. The result is a comprehensive and balance set of sentencing guidelines that will provide greater uniformity and certainty in sentencing so that victims and offenders alike will understand the meaning and effect of the sentence imposed. The guidelines are intended to promote fairness and reduce disparity while preserving that degree of judicial discretion necessary to fashion the sentence appropriate for the individual offender and the specific offense. The Report to the General Court was unanimously adopted by commission members. It presents the philosophical and policy bases for the guidelines. The recommendation of the Report have been incorporated into the sentencing guidelines legislation, which is presently before the Legislature.
New Sentencing Commission Appointed
A new Massachusetts Sentencing Commission was appointed by the Governor in 2014. Chaired by Superior Court Judge Jack Lu, the commission is comprised of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and representatives from criminal justice, public safety, and victim agencies. In order to ensure that Massachusetts has a state-of-the-art sentencing system, the commission will use data to bring a critical data-based lens to the Commonwealth’s sentencing practices, make Legislative recommendations and become a useful reference for the Judiciary. To accomplish the work set forth in its enabling legislation -G.L. Ch. 211E - the Commission will consult with national scholars, gather data on current sentencing practices, and research best practices across a range of sentencing options.