Democrats running for Massachusetts governor in 2018 hope to repeal mandatory minimum sentences

The Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee hosted the three Democratic candidates for Governor Wednesday night. Committeee chair Candy Glazer, second from with the candidates Jay Gonzalez,left, Bob Massie and Setti Warren, right.The event was held at the Greenwood Center.   (MARK M.MURRAY/THE REPUBLICAN)
The Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee hosted the three Democratic candidates for Governor Wednesday night. Committeee chair Candy Glazer, second from with the candidates Jay Gonzalez,left, Bob Massie and Setti Warren, right.The event was held at the Greenwood Center.

All three of the Democrats running for governor in 2018 support repealing some mandatory minimum sentences, but they differ on exactly which ones to repeal.

Criminal justice reform is going to be a major priority for the Legislature in 2018, even before voters decide whether to replace Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who is running for re-election. The House and Senate both passed versions of a criminal justice bill that, among other things, would eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

But where the Democratic candidates stand could be relevant if the House and Senate fail to reach a compromise next year or if activists push for further changes in 2019 or beyond.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren favors a similar policy to what lawmakers are considering: repealing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. These are typically drug dealers.

“As opposed to putting them in the criminal justice system, let’s put people in treatment,” Warren said.

“What we know is evidence-based research that shows that mandatory minimums do not reduce criminal activity nor does it address the crisis in opioids we have here in the state of Massachusetts,” Warren said.

Former health insurance executive and state budget chief Jay Gonzalez wants to go further and eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences except for murder. These would include firearms crimes, operating under the influence and stalking, which all have mandatory minimums under certain circumstances.

“We should eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences except for murder and let judges do their jobs and take the individual circumstances of every particular case into account in determining the right sentence for that person,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the current system is not rational. For example, there is no mandatory minimum sentence for rape but there is for less serious offenses.

“The truth is we have them for some and not for others,” Gonzalez said.

He noted that there is also a significant racial disparity, where the people most likely to be hurt by mandatory minimum sentences are black and Hispanic.

Environmentalist and entrepreneur Bob Massie said he opposes mandatory minimum sentences, except “maybe” for the most violent crimes. “Discretion should belong to the judge,” Massie said.

In general, all the Democrats support policies that would result in fewer people being incarcerated.

Warren said it is important that people with nonviolent drug problems are diverted out of the criminal justice system and into treatment. He wants to ensure that people in jail have access to any necessary mental health or substance abuse treatment. And, he said, it is important to provide support services, such as help finding jobs, to people who have been released from jail.

Gonzalez said although Massachusetts has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the U.S., rates are still higher than in many countries. “We need to be focused much more on addressing the underlying causes of crime,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez supports investing more money in diversionary programs and specialty courts to keep people who need services like drug addiction treatment out of the criminal justice system. He supports more programming to help former inmates be successful when they reenter society.

Gonzalez also supports eliminating cash bail and reforming fees and fines to make sure the state is not incarcerating people solely because they are poor.

Massie similarly favors reforming the justice system in ways that lock up fewer people and make it easier for prisoners to rejoin society. “We need to rethink what it is we expect prisons to do — lock people up or move them through a process where they can re-enter society,” Massie said.

Massie wants to see more addiction treatment and education in the prison system. He believes solitary confinement should be eliminated as a “form of torture.”

Warren and Gonzalez both opposed marijuana legalization, but now say the state must act to implement the law as efficiently as possible. Massie supported legalizing marijuana.

Car found wedged between two houses in Parma after drunk driver crashes

PARMA – A Jeep was found wedged between two houses in Parma Friday night.

Police say the 21-year-old driver was found stuck inside the car in the 6000 block of W. 54th Street.

The driver was found to be under the influence and was removed from the car. He was arrested for OVI.

Police say there was structural damage to one of the homes. At the time of the crash, people were inside both houses, but no one was hurt.

Boy, 11, loses arm when dad, accused of 4th OWI, crashed early Christmas morning

An 11-year-old boy lost an arm when his father, who is accused of driving under the influence, crashed into trees early Monday morning.

Jeremy Froemming, 38, told an officer he took three different types of pills Sunday afternoon.

He crashed into trees near Highway 67 and Highway D in the town of Ottawa at about 1:30 a.m.

Both Froemming and his son were trapped inside.

The boy was flown by Flight for Life to Children’s Hospital, where he remains, but doctors were unable to save his arm.

Court documents show Froemming has three prior OWI offense. He is charged with intoxicated use of a vehicle — great bodily harm and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated — fourth offense, with a minor child in the vehicle.

POLICE: Doing donuts in parking lot leads to DWI arrest

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) – A Tonawanda man crashed his car into a brick wall and was charged with DWI after police say he was doing donuts in a parking lot.

Police say 22-year-old Michael Day told them he was “doing donuts and figure 8’s” in the BJ’s parking lot on Young Street Wednesday night when he lost control.  He smashed his Ford pickup against a brick retaining wall in the parking lot.

Day told police he had been drinking during the day, and blew a .11% when his BAC was tested.  He was charged with DWI and reckless driving.

West Mifflin School District Superintendent To Stand Trial On DUI Charges

WEST MIFFLIN (KDKA) — The superintendent for the West Mifflin School District will stand trial on DUI charges.

West Mifflin School superintendent Daniel Castagna showed up in Beaver County Court on Friday to face charges of driving under the influence, speeding and careless driving.

In September, Castagna was stopped on Interstate 376 in Beaver County after his car was seen weaving and straddling the lane. State police say he had slurred speech, blood-shot eyes and smelled of alcohol.

State police say Castagna’s .15 alcohol blood level was nearly twice the legal limit.

“His reputation is suffering, obviously, with the nature of the allegations with the school district, but again, I can’t comment to that,” defense attorney Steven Valsamidis said.

The West Mifflin School District would only say that it’s taking the charges seriously. The law requires that Castagna receive due process, and this is considered a personnel matter. However, this is Castagna’s second DUI offense. Nine years ago, he went through the ARD program; it allows first-time offenders who go through the program to get the charges dismissed and their record expunged.

“This is a second offense DUI. Statutorily, he is eligible for ARD again in light of the circumstances of the first ARD. A little known fact a lot of people don’t realize, you can get ARD a second time for a second DUI,” Valsamidis said.

Castagna was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on Jan. 30.