Three Strikes: The Wrong Way to Justice

A Policy Report of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice: Harvard Law School

Released June 26, 2012

This report provides critical information to the public and to Massachusetts state legislators about the likely long-term impact of the proposed changes to Massachusetts’ Habitual Offender Law (S 2080 AND H 3818). These changes are currently being debated in the Legislature’s Conference Committee.

At a time when many states are moving to repeal or amend their “three strikes” laws in order to take a more balanced approach to public safety, Massachusetts has inexplicably chosen to move in the “wrong direction.” The report offers a detailed analysis of the most problematic provisions of the bills that are almost certain to cost taxpayers far more than originally estimated, increase the likelihood of unnecessarily lengthy prison sentences for low-level offenders, further burden an already severely overcrowded prison system—putting employees and prisoners at risk—and divert precious state resources away from education, basic services, infrastructure improvement, and job creation. The legislation will almost certainly further exacerbate the stark racial disparities that characterize the state’s prison population.

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