Addressing Racialized Harms of Incarceration: CAR’s Caitlin Glass Testified in front of Massachusetts Legislative Committee

On Tuesday, July 25, 2023, Caitlin Glass, the Policy Program Director at the BU Center for Antiracist Research, testified before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary. In her testimony, Glass shared CAR’s research and policy work regarding racism in the administration of felony murder laws, accomplice liability, and extreme sentencing in Massachusetts.

Many incarcerated people, their families, and community advocates provided powerful testimonies at the hearing. Glass’s testimony addressed three bills pending before the Committee: H3945, An Act to provide equitable sentencing for felony murder; H3962, An Act regarding joint venture; and H1821, An Act to reduce mass incarceration. 

Glass testified that “Felony murder and joint venture laws have particular adverse impacts on young people, women, and survivors of gender-based violence.” Massachusetts stands out as one of only twelve states that impose mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all felony murder convictions. She also addressed Massachusetts’s life-without-parole sentencing more broadly, stating that “Massachusetts should end the use of death by incarceration sentences altogether, as study after study have shown that these extreme sentences do not make us safer.” She urged the legislature to consider this research as it evaluates these proposed efforts to address Massachusetts’s extreme punishment practices.”

The hearing also included testimony from Massachusetts State Senator Liz Miranda, who stated that “life without parole is death by another name.” Senator Miranda cited CAR’s amicus brief in Commonwealth v. Mattis (2023), which presented data regarding racial disproportionality in the imposition of life without parole sentences for 18-to-20-year-olds, and argued that such sentences are cruel and disproportionate, in violation of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and the Eighth Amendment.

This testimony is part of the Center’s ongoing efforts to address the racialized harms of felony murder laws, criminalization, and incarceration. A recording of the hearing is available here. The testimony of incarcerated community members begins around the 1 hour mark. Senator Miranda’s testimony begins around 02:33:29, and Glass’s testimony begins around 02:42:24.

Note: The views expressed in Glass’s testimony do not reflect the official policy or position of Boston University.