Governor Patrick will sign habitual offender crime bill

Governor Deval Patrick this afternoon pledged to sign the controversial crime bill, despite the Legislature’s refusal to add a provision that would give judges more flexibility in sentencing repeat offenders.

Patrick, who announced his decision in a press release, is expected to speak to reporters at an event in Roxbury this afternoon.

“I asked for a balanced bill and, after many twists and turns, the Legislature has given me one,” the governor said in his statement. “Because of the balance between strict sentences for the worst offenders and more common sense approaches for those who pose little threat to public safety, I have said that this is a good bill. I will sign this bill.”

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The legislation would also loosen sentences for non-violent drug offenders and Patrick said he had received a commitment from legislative leaders to examine the issue again next year.

“We must get serious about reforming mandatory minimum sentences,” he wrote. “Like I said, the warehousing of non-violent drug offenders has proven to be a costly failure. It does nothing to improve public safety and it doesn’t deal with the substance abuse that is the source of the problem. States across the country are moving away from it and we must, too.”

Legislators sent the bill back to Patrick’s desk after rejecting an amendment he had proposed that would have given judges more discretion in how to sentence habitual offenders.

That left the Democratic governor in a standoff with the Democratic Legislature, whose members urged Patrick to sign the bill. The legislative session is set to end tonight at midnight.

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