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October 13, 2012

ACLU: Release non-violent inmates tied to state lab crisis

BOSTON — Civil rights advocates this week called for the blanket release of all non-violent drug offenders convicted based upon evidence handled by discredited former drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan, and for the records of potentially thousands more felons to be expunged.

As the fallout of the ongoing investigation into evidence tampering at a state drug lab continues, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Families Against Mandatory Minimums wrote a letter to Attorney General Martha Coakley and the state’s district attorneys calling the case-by-case handling of convictions tainted by Dookhan in specially convened drug courts a waste of time and public resources.

Meanwhile, warning that hundreds of violent criminals with histories of drug trafficking could soon be released into city neighborhoods, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and public safety officials announced plans to launch an emergency reentry program and put more police on the streets in preparation for the fallout of the ongoing investigation into evidence tampering at a state drug lab.

“It’s unfortunate that one person can cause such harm to the legal process and in turn such potential for harm to the neighborhoods in our city and state,” said Menino, who met with Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and others to discuss the intervention plan.

Starting yesterday in Norfolk County, “crisis re-entry teams” were scheduled to begin pre-release visitations with felons expected to be released as a result of the tainted evidence at the lab. Comprised of representatives from the Boston Police Department, district attorneys, the Department of Probation and Boston Centers for Youth and Family, the teams will case manage each individual released.

“They’re getting out very abruptly They’re serving a five-, a 10-, a 15-year sentence and then someone knocks on their door cell and says, ‘By the way it’s your lucky day. Annie Dookhan analyzed your drugs so we’re going to address your case.’ And since it was so abrupt and there was no preparation this is why the commissioner and mayor and others behind me thought it was good to have these intervention sessions,” Conley said.

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