By Timothy J. Muise
Two groups, one an old war horse in the push for common sense criminal justice reform and the other fairly new on the scene, have teamed up in an attempt to get the voice of the informed prisoner back into the Massachusetts Sate House.
The Lifers’ Group, Inc., founded in 1973, and Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants-Adherence to the Rehabilitation Mandate (CURE-ARM), founded in 2013, have joined forces and are conducting meetings with several members of the Massachusetts Legislature; both representatives and senators. Their goal is to have prisoners travel to the Massachusetts State House to testify concerning proposed legislation which would impact the prison system and general public safety affected thereby.
In October 2015, the process began its formal proceedings when members of both the Lifers’ Group and CURE-ARM afforded presentations to several members of the General Court at MCI Shirley, a medium-security prison. These presentations were designed to display to the representatives and senators that these men were “experts” on prison related topics and therefore qualified to testify in the Senate Chamber and House of Representatives. The presenters challenged the legislators to construct questions on the topics presented and then return for a roundtable talk.
On February 26, 2016, the group of senators and representatives returned to the prison in Shirley and directed those well thought-out questions to the prisoner presenters. By all reports it was an outstanding showing with the legislators agreeing to work on getting these men into the State House during the next legislative session.
Then on September 20, 2016, Massachusetts State Senator William N. Brownsberger traveled to MCI Norfolk, another medium-security prison in the state, where he met with members of the Lifers’ Group and CURE-ARM and further plans to bring the informed prisoners into the state house to offer testimony were developed. The process is ongoing, but it surely looks like the voice of the informed prisoner will be heard, and heard loudly, in the Massachusetts State House. ■