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Campaign for Fair Treatment Delivers 25,000 Signatures to Secretary of State to Put Fair Treatment Initiative On November Ballot.

Business Editors


Volume of Signatures Demonstrates Strong Grass-Roots Support

for Reform of Property Seizure Laws & Expansion of Drug Treatment

The Coalition for Fair Treatment today submitted to the Massachusetts Secretary of State the signatures of more than 25,000 voters who support placing the Fair Treatment Initiative on the November ballot. The Coalition is a broad-based group of criminal justice experts, health and social service providers, educators and concerned citizens.

"We are proud to have almost three times the number of voter signatures required to put the Fair Treatment Initiative on the ballot. Only 9,517 signatures are needed, and more than 25,000 voters signed their names in support of our cause," said Coalition Chair Deena Whitfield, Director of Admissions at the Lesley College Adult Baccalaureate College and former President of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts.

"Voters from Boston to the Berkshires feel strongly about the need to restore justice to our property seizure laws -- laws that currently allow government to seize and dispose of private property before the owner has been convicted or even accused of any crime," Whitfield added. "Every citizen in the Commonwealth is threatened by the present system, which presumes an individual's guilt rather than innocence."

Whitfield said that voters strongly favor the Initiative's provision to use fines and properly forfeited property for expanded drug treatment. "Experts agree, treatment is the most effective long-term weapon that we have in the fight against drugs. The Fair Treatment Initiative will make drug dealers pay to help treat the people whose addiction they have encouraged," she noted.

Following today's signature turn-in, the Secretary of State will review and certify the signatures, a process expected to take approximately two weeks.

Former Attorneys General Scott Harshbarger, Frank Bellotti, and James Shannon and Congressman and former Norfolk County District Attorney William Delahunt are among the law enforcement experts who believe that the Fair Treatment Initiative will strengthen the Commonwealth's criminal justice system. Other supporters include:

--the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts,

--the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts,

--the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts,

--the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition,

--Dr. Robert F. Meenan, Dean of the Boston University School of Public Health,

--the Rev. Wesley Roberts, President of the Black Ministerial Alliance,

--James Hunt Jr., Executive Director of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers,

--Eric Blumenson, Professor of Law at Suffolk Law School,

--Ralph Cooper of the Veterans' Benefits Clearinghouse,

--Eva Nilsen, Associate Clinical Professor at the Boston University School of Law,

--Richard Elrick, Barnstable Town Councilor,

--Denise Jillson, former Chairperson of the Massachusetts Homeowners Coalition, and

--Michael Weekes, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Human Services Provider Council.

The signatures submitted today is in addition to the 100,000 signatures filed by the Coalition for Fair Treatment last fall.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jul 5, 2000
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