A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

You did it!

After so many months of tireless advocacy, you did it. On Friday, Governor Baker signed the omnibus criminal justice reform bill into law. The bill is now Chapter 69 of the Acts of 2018. And with that, you’ve brought us one step closer to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

This is huge.

Thanks to you, we can now stop kids in Massachusetts schools from being arrested for the vague crime of “disturbing school assembly.” We can keep school resource officers from involving themselves in routine disciplinary situations they are not trained for. And we can start collecting important data on school arrests in the state.

For every phone call you made to your senators and representatives, for every email you sent in support of our provisions, for your time and energy – thank you. 

This was no easy journey, and there were moments when it looked like our provisions to keep kids in class might not make it to the finish line. But you raised your voice time and time again and because you did, we won!

Find your legislators here and thank them for leading the charge to make this bill a reality.

The fight to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline is by no means over. But together, we just took a huge step forward.

Thank you for your continued involvement and support.


Deborah Silva
Executive Director

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Action Alert

It’s that time of year again.

Budget season.

Yesterday, the House Committee on Ways and Means (HWM) released its fiscal year 2019 budget proposal. And we have some work to do if we want to ensure the unaccompanied homeless youth of Massachusetts have the support they need and the Housing Court and civil legal aid have enough funding to provide greater access to justice across the state.

Each year, we fight to make sure our most vulnerable and at-risk populations are cared for, and your advocacy is the reason we’ve been successful in the past. Now, we need your help once more as we enter the first battle of the budget season.

With your help, we will win!

Homeless Youth

The HWM budget recommendations include $1 million for housing and services for unaccompanied homeless youth. While this would be an increase over the FY’18 appropriation, it would be less than the spending level last year AND less than the FY’19 Governor’s recommendation of $2 million.

These services for homeless youth can prove life-saving.

Representative O’Day will be filing TWO youth homelessness amendments:

  • To increase funding for youth housing and services to $4 million;
  • To include specific language in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services line item that will provide $150,000 for the important work of the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.

Action You Can Take:

Call your State Representative TODAY and ask them to sign on to both amendments by contacting Cinda Danh in Rep. O’Day’s office: cinda.danh@mahouse.gov.

Deadline: By 3:00 p.m., Friday (tomorrow).

Click here to find your Representative’s contact information.

Housing Court

The Housing Court expansion is a critical component of expanding access to justice for people across the state facing eviction, gentrification, and other housing crises.

But the HWM has only provided partial funding for the expansion of the Housing Court in the amount of $1.5 million. The Governor proposed $2.6 million for the Housing Court, which would enable full funding of the expansion.

The expansion of the Housing Court is an important step forward in achieving access to justice for Massachusetts residents.

Representative Walsh will be filing an amendment to provide the full funding, $2.6 million, for the Housing Court expansion.

Action You Can Take:

Call your State Representative TODAY and ask them to sign on to Representative Walsh’s Housing Court amendment.

Deadline: By NOON, Friday (tomorrow).

Click here to find your Representative’s contact information.

Civil Legal Aid

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the state, and thousands of low-income residents unable to afford an attorney rely on their services.

The HWM’s budget includes $20 million in funding for MLAC, which is $2 million over the FY’18 appropriation, but still short of MLAC’s request of $5 million in additional funding.

As the federal access to justice office shutters its doors, funding civil legal aid is more important than ever.

Representative Cronin and Representative Balser have filed an amendment seeking an additional $2 million in funding.

Action You Can Take:

Call your State Representative TODAY to ask them to co-sponsor and support Amendment #243.

Deadline: By the end of the day, Friday (tomorrow).

Don’t wait! Click here to find your Representative’s contact information.


Thank you for joining us in this important push to protect these necessary services. Your advocacy is vital this time of year, and we’re so grateful for your continued commitment to our work.

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Action Alert

BREAKING: On Friday, March 23rd, the Conference Committee working on the Omnibus Criminal Justice Reform bill reported out the final compromise language and the Senate and House are expected to pass the final bill today! The school discipline reform that we advocated for was included in Sections 27, 159, and 160. We believe these provisions will advance our goal to decrease the number of kids being arrested and removed from school for minor misbehavior.

We are so grateful for your advocacy!

But we’re not done yet! Now, more than ever, is the time to raise our voices and be heard.

Once the legislature passes the bill, the next step is that the bill will advance to the Governor’s desk and he will have 10 days to sign or veto it. It will only become law if the Governor signs it! Governor Baker has not yet stated his position on the compromise bill. Please join us by contacting Governor Baker and urging him to sign S.2371, the omnibus criminal justice reform legislation, which includes sections 27, 159, and 160 related to student arrests and School Resource Officers (SROs).

As a reminder, these provisions would:

  1. Decriminalize non-violent misconduct in schools; and
  2. require that MOUs between schools and police departments include certain provisions clarifying that SROs should not be involved in routine disciplinary actions for non-violent school infractions; and
  3. outline data collection methods and responsibilities.

If this legislation becomes law, these provisions will keep students from undergoing the trauma of arrest for simply acting out, and ensure that school resource officers (SROs) are trained in child development, de-escalation techniques, and implicit bias. For more information about the bills the final language originated from, check out this fact sheet on our website.

Will you help us ensure these important reforms become Massachusetts law?

Research shows that arrests of students for non-violent behavior disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities, and the impact can be devastating. A student who is arrested in school is three times more likely to drop out, and is subsequently more likely to go to prison, earn less income, and rely more on public benefits.

Please call Governor Baker, and urge him to sign S.2371 into law!

Click here to find Governor Baker’s contact information.

No child deserves to feel unsafe when they walk into their school. We need to urge Governor Baker to pass these common sense reforms that will prevent unnecessary arrests and be an important step in keeping kids in class and out of the school-to-prison pipeline.

Thank you for your continued support.

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Honoring Senator William “Mo” Cowan, Vice President of Litigation and Legal Policy of GE

On March 29, 2018, the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice (“MA Appleseed”) honored former Senator William “Mo” Cowan with its 11th annual Good Apple Award. The event began with a reception, which began at 6:00 pm, in the Wharf Room at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Every year, MA Appleseed presents a “Good Apple” award to someone in the Massachusetts legal community who demonstrates the principles of social justice and equal opportunity that MA Appleseed was itself founded on. The event, which serves as Massachusetts Appleseed’s annual fundraiser, raises money to support the organization’s program and outreach efforts.


2018 Good Apple Award Recipient (PDF)
2018 Good Apple Invitation (PDF)