SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — State Sen. Jamie Eldridge’s Republican opponent in the November election for the Middlesex and Worcester District seat is criticizing him for voting against "Melissa’s Bill," a sentencing reform measure that would eliminate the possibility of parole for thrice-convicted violent criminals.
The bill was named after Melissa Gosule, a 27-year-old substitute teacher from Boston who was raped and murdered in 1999 by a paroled man with 27 prior convictions. The killer, a Halifax native named Michael Gentile, offered Gosule a ride when her car broke down on Cape Cod. Gentile is currently serving a life sentence without parole for first-degree murder.
The House approved the bill on July 18 by a vote of 139–14. The Senate approved it on July 19 by a vote of 31–7.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for his Marlborough campaign office, state senate candidate Dean Cavaretta said that Eldridge (D-Acton) had a history of putting "special interests in front of the interests of his constituents."
"From pushing a carbon tax to voting against EBT cash reform, to even voting to shrink the drug-free zone around schools, Mr. Eldridge votes far out of the mainstream," Cavaretta said. "I think he owes constituents an explanation why he would not support locking up violent, repeat criminals."
When asked by The Daily Voice to elaborate on Monday, Cavaretta reiterated his support for the bill.
"I support, in principal, the idea of removing the opportunity of parole for violent offenders," he said. He also questioned why Eldridge would be willing to spend money to support renewable energy subsidies, but not to lock up violent criminals.
Eldridge, however, defended his vote. Responding to question from The Daily Voice on Monday, Eldridge argued that the bill would increase prison overcrowding while costing the state money that could be better spent on drug treatment programs or hiring police officers.
"In the end, I don’t think that mandatory minimum sentences make the Commonwealth any safer," he said.
Eldridge also pointed out that states like Texes, South Carolina, Kansas and Mississippi have all moved away from mandatory minimum sentences and three-strike laws because the cost outweighs the results.
"I’m not sure why the Commonwealth is going in this direction," he said.
Responding to Cavaretta’s comment about renewable energy subsidies, Eldridge said that many of his constituents support such measures.
Melissa’s Bill now heads to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk for review.