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October 13, 2012

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

(Continued)

Menino also said Boston police would be given more resources to police neighborhoods, costing an estimated $3.5 million in overtime and personnel, and the mayor said he would be making a formal request to the state and federal government for financial assistance.

Conley called it a “myth” that corrections facilities are filled with low-level, non-violent drug offenders, suggesting that many of those who will be freed have histories of significant drug trafficking. “These are not young, low-level drug addicts we’re talking about. These are people with violent histories almost across the board,” he said.

The ACLU said Coakley should work with district attorneys to dismiss all cases that do not involve charges for violent crimes or weapons offenses, that involve instances of police or prosecutors calling Dookhan directly at the lab to discuss test results, or cases for defendants in certain instances who have served at least half of their sentence.

“The spectacular failure of the Hinton lab is a reason to dismiss many of these cases, rather than to spend $100 million re-prosecuting them,” ACLU of Massachusetts Legal Director Matthew Segal said. “That expenditure of time and money would be a waste of both.”

Segal said the organization was not proposing a specific plan for how or when the prisoners would be released, but said the resources being spent to hear each of these cases in court, and the likelihood of subsequent litigation by defendants calls for a broader solution.

“We’re not proposing to decide all that for ourselves, but one of the key questions here is how is the commonwealth going to use its money and we think we’ll spend less money and spend it more intelligently if we can devote some of it to reentry programs and less of it to the hard slog of re-prosecuting cases for no particular benefits,” Segal said.

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