The Massachusetts House on Saturday rejected a Gov. Charlie Baker plan to overhaul how criminal defendants can be deemed dangerous and detained, spiking his last-minute effort to attach the controversial measure to another criminal justice reform push.
The House voted 31-122 to shoot down a state budget amendment Baker sent back (H 5112), which appended a narrower version of the so-called "dangerousness" bill lawmakers already sent to a dead-end study to a provision offering free communication to incarcerated people and their families.
Baker and his deputies argued the amendment represented a potential compromise with the Legislature, paring down the original bill (H 4290) that had prompted significant concerns among civil rights advocates, but Judiciary Committee Co-chair Rep. Mike Day on Saturday called the rewrite "a bad proposal that, if enacted in its current form, would likely substantially increase the rate and duration of pretrial detention."
"This current proposal would give prosecutors an unbelievable amount of power by enabling them in effect to leverage a plea bargain offer with the threat of pretrial imprisonment during the course of the trial itself," Day said. "It's unnecessary."
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The governor's amendment, which drew continued opposition from groups like the ACLU of Massachusetts and from the Legislature's Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, would have expanded the list of offenses for which prosecutors could seek a dangerousness hearing and detain a suspect before trial. It also would have allowed a prosecutor to seek a dangerousness hearing any time during the process, not just during arraignment, opened the door for a dangerousness detention to last for the duration of a case, criminalized removal of a GPS ankle bracelet, and required victims to be notified before someone charged with abuse is released.