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Crime bill should've been better, could've been worse

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty July 31, 2012 04:38 PM

The mandatory-sentencing bill that Gov. Patrick said today he will sign should have been better, but could have been worse.

The ACLU of Massachusetts opposed this bill because it takes our justice system in the wrong direction, expanding unjust, wasteful mandatory sentencing and depriving judges of the ability to depart from required mandatory maximum sentences for so-called 'habitual offenders'. This bill will put more people in prison and keep them there longer--at a price tag of nearly $50,000 per prisoner each year.

However, the bill does take some steps in the right direction, such as:

  • reduced mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses;

  • permitting drug offenders in prison to become eligible for parole and work release and to earn 'good time' sentence reductions;

  • more 'good time' for participation in prison programs;

  • reduction of the 'school zone' for drug offenses and limiting the hours of its operation (5am to midnight);

  • a 'Good Samaritan' law to protect people who help in drug overdose situations.


Menino v. Chick-fil-A

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty July 26, 2012 04:57 PM

You know we are in the silly season of summer when Boston Mayor Thomas Menino fires up the old bully pulpit to roast his political enemies and fire up his base.

Nothing else explains the Mayor’s decision to issue a public letter to Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, blasting Mr. Cathy for his opposition to same-sex marriage and “urging” the homophobic fried-food honcho to “back out of your plans to locate in Boston.”

“There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trial and no place for your company alongside it,” the Mayor wrote.

“We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people,” he added. “We are proud that our state and our city have led the way for the country on equal marriage rights.”


But, you may ask, what about Dan Cathy’s rights?


Governor Patrick should ensure justice by rejecting mandatory sentencing bill

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty July 19, 2012 02:02 PM

A deeply flawed mandatory-sentencing bill is now on Governor Patrick's desk. It would expand unjust and wasteful mandatory sentencing, and force judges to impose one-size-fits-all sentences regardless of the facts and circumstances of an individual case.

The Governor should reject the bill as-is, because it's bad for public safety and bad for Massachusetts.


MBTA asked for input on fares, so how about surveillance?

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty July 18, 2012 09:48 AM


Kade Crockford, project manager and principal investigator of the Technology for Liberty Project at the ACLU of Massachusetts, wrote this guest blog.

The MBTA is about to install thousands of new surveillance cameras throughout its transportation network. The additional cameras will double the number operable today--which, for anyone who looks out for them, is sort of hard to imagine, given that cameras are pretty much everywhere in MBTA properties today. They reportedly plan to do this by installing cameras on buses and trains--an invasion of our privacy we have not yet been forced to collectively suffer.

This is yet another example of what has become the status quo--we are simply told that new surveillance technologies and practices will be implemented in our cities or towns. No one asks us; there is no consent of the governed watched.


Cong. Markey sheds sunlight on surveillance; now Congress must act

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty July 9, 2012 07:04 PM

Thanks to the leadership of Congressman Ed Markey, we now know that the government made more than 1.3 million requests to cell phone companies for information on mobile phone subscribers in 2011 alone, at enormous expense to tax payers and untold danger to civil liberties.

Congressman Markey's inquiry to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, MetroPCS, Cricket, U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile, Tracfone and C Spire for records indicating how many times law enforcement asked for our private information last year reveals that, once again, the law has failed to keep pace with changes in technology.

Simply put: America lacks clear legal standards over when and how government officials obtain, store, and use information about innocent people from third party information providers, such as cellular phone companies.


About the author

Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. A lawyer and journalist, Carol has spent her career working for and writing about human rights and civil liberties, both in the United States and abroad. More »

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