A bill that toughens sentences for violent repeat-offenders passed the Senate today after having been overwhelmingly in the House Wednesday evening.
The so-called "three-strikes" law eliminates parole for someone convicted three times of one of 40 or so violent crimes, with at least one conviction having carried a minimum three-year prison term. It passed the House with a vote of 139-14. In the Senate, it passed 31-7.
The movement to pass the law was fueled, in part, by outrage over two crimes. In one, . In the other crime more associated with the law, sometimes dubbed "Melissa's Law," 27-year-old Jamaica Plain schoolteacher Melissa Gosule was murdered in 1999 after being raped and murdered by a felon who had 27 previous convictions. Gosule grew up in Randolph.
While cracking down on violent criminals, the bill passed last night eases mandatory sentencing on nonviolent drug offenses, in part to take the strain off overcrowded prisons. It also reduces the size of school zones, inside which drug activity carries a larger penalty, since most urban areas fall largely within these zones.
The bill heads to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk, where he has until July 31 to act on it.