Massachusetts law about sentencing, probation, and parole

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on sentencing, probation, parole, and executive clemency (pardons and commutations) in Massachusetts.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Guidelines and reports

Guidelines for probation violation proceedings in the Superior Court

Sentencing best practices, Mass. Trial Court, 2016.
Reports of working groups in BMC, District, Juvenile, and Superior Courts, with information regarding the purposes of sentencing and the empirically-based effect of sentences and probationary terms on recidivism. Includes Sentencing bench book for District Court.

Sentencing guidelines, Mass. Sentencing Commission, 2019.

Massachusetts laws

Master Crime List, Mass. Sentencing Commission. (June 2018)
Lists felonies and misdemeanors first by MGL reference, and then alphabetically by offense, specifying the penalty type and sentencing information. Easiest way to find penalties for particular offenses. See also the Interactive Master Crime List.

St. 2022, c. 126, § 104 Removed the sections requiring probation fees
As of July 1, 2022 there are no longer any monthly probation fees and any fees paid after that date will be refunded.

MGL c. 22E, § 3 DNA collection required upon felony conviction; probation officers have authority to take sample

MGL c. 27, § 5 Parole Board

MGL c. 123, § 16 Hospitalization of persons incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental illness; see Garcia v. Commonwealth

MGL c. 127, § 119A Medical parole

MGL c. 127, § 129D Good conduct credit for state prison sentences is 7.5 days per program per month

MGL c. 127, §§ 151A-151N Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision

MGL c. 276, § 58A (1) "The commonwealth may move, based on dangerousness, for an order of pretrial detention...[for a person] arrested and charged with a violation of paragraph (a), (c), or (m) of section 10 of chapter 269 [illegal weapons]."

MGL c. 276, §§ 83-103 Probation officers

MGL c. 276, § 87B Eligible offenders can earn probation compliance credits that reduce the length of post-disposition probation supervision

MGL c. 278, § 18 Continued without a finding, nolo contendere, specific dispositions

MGL c.279 Judgment and execution

MGL c. 279, § 25 Habitual offender (3 strikes)

Massachusetts regulations

103 CMR 410 Sentence computation

103 CMR 411 Deduction from sentence 

120 CMR Parole Board regulations

501 CMR 17 Medical parole

Court rules

Selected cases

Commonwealth v. Mattis, 493 Mass. 216 (2024)
The SJC ruled to raise the minimum age a person can be sentenced to mandatory life without parole from 18 to 21.

For more cases, see: Selected court cases on the topic of sentencing, probation, and parole (including juveniles)

Web sources

In general

DOJ letter to colleagues regarding assessing fines and fees for adults and juveniles, April 2023.

Massachusetts recidivism study: a closer look at releases and returns to prison, Urban Institute, 2008.

District Court complaint language manual, Mass. District Court.
Includes suggested language and offense codes used by prosecutors to charge someone with any of approximately 5000 offenses mentioned in the General Laws, Code of Mass. Regulations, and municipal ordinances & by-laws; provides the authorized sentencing range for each offense; and, if the penalty for an offense is derived from a different statute, that statute is referenced.

Glossary of Massachusetts sentencing terms, Lee J. Gartenberg, 2022.
Glossary of commonly used sentencing terms in Massachusetts. Downloads as Word doc.

Mitigating and aggravating factors, Mass. Sentencing Commission.

Racial disparities in the Massachusetts criminal system, report by the Criminal Justice Policy Program (produced at the request of Chief Justice Ralph Gants), 2020.

COVID-19

CDC guidance on management of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in correctional and detention facilities, May 11, 2023.

Probation and parole

About probation, Mass. Probation Service.
A probation sentence, sometimes called community supervision, gives you the opportunity to stay in the community, work, and be with your family and friends with specific conditions instead of being sentenced to prison or the house of correction. A probation officer will be assigned to help and monitor you during your time on probation.

Adult Compact version 2, Council of State Governments.
Concise article explaining the interstate compact for tracking and supervising parolees and probationers that move between states.

Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision
Site includes rules, bylaws, advisory opinions, bench book for judges and court personnel, forms, and more. Everything you need to know to transfer supervision to another state.

Learn about the Electronic Monitoring Program, Mass. Probation Service.
Find out how the Global Positioning System (GPS) devices and remote breath alcohol monitoring devices used for probation work.

Parole records and hearings, Parole Board.
Find information about parole hearings and life sentence parole hearings.

Surveys of Massachusetts sentencing practices, Massachusetts Sentencing Commission. 

Pardon and commutation

Executive clemency guidelines, Governor Maura Healey, 2023.
Provides guidance on the requirements to be considered for a pardon or commutation, with emphasis on key points of interest to the Advisory Board of Pardons.

Marijuana pardons frequently asked questions, Mass. Governor.
On March 13, 2024, Governor Maura T. Healey announced a one-time, large-scale pardon effort for people with certain misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions.

Massachusetts restoration of rights & record relief, Restoration of Rights Project, 2022.
Provides a detailed summary of law and procedure on pardons, firearms and expungement under new marijuana law.

Pardons and commutations, Mass. Parole Board.
Explains the difference between pardon and commutation, with guidelines and petition forms.

Print sources

Criminal law, 3rd ed. (Mass. Practice v.32), West Pub. Co., 2001 with supplement.

LexisNexis practice guide: Massachusetts criminal law, Lexis, annual. Chapters 8, 9, 10.

Sentencing, probation and parole, MCLE, 2024.

Standards of the Massachusetts Probation Service, Probation Service, 2011.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about sentencing, probation, and parole

Last updated: May 20, 2024

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