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Survey of Sentencing Practices: Truth-in-Sentencing Reform in Massachusetts

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2000
78 pages
This study examined sentencing practices under Massachusetts' new truth-in-sentencing law, with attention to the incarceration sentences.
Chapter 432 of the Acts of 1993, "An Act to Promote the Effective Management of the Criminal Justice System Through Truth-in-Sentencing," established the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission and introduced the first phase of truth-in-sentencing reform in Massachusetts. The objective of the sentencing reform was to establish a more truthful relationship between the sentence imposed and time served by incarcerated offenders. Provisions involved the elimination of statutory good time, the elimination of parole eligibility at one-third or two-thirds of the minimum sentence for State prison sentences, and the reduction of the minimum allowable State prison sentences for certain felonies from 2 1/2 years to 1 year. The current research considered those defendants sentenced to imprisonment over the 6 years from fiscal year 1994 to fiscal year 1999. Estimates of the impact of the new law were not based on actual time served by offenders, but rather on expectations at the point of conviction. The study found that for offenders sentenced to incarceration, the expected time to serve was closer to the sentence imposed for those offenders sentenced under the new law; however, there was evidence of unintended consequences related to the implementation of Chapter 432. For those offenders sentenced to houses of correction, expected time to serve was longer for those sentenced under the new law. For those offenders with State prison sentences, expected time to parole eligibility increased, but there was no evidence that expected maximum time to serve increased. For those offenders sentenced to incarceration from the superior court, there was a shift in correctional jurisdiction from the Department of Corrections to houses of correction. 26 tables and 14 figures

Date Published: October 1, 2000