• Mandatory sentences need reform, ex-cons and officials say

    The National Day of Empathy, held in conjunction with MassInc. and #Cut50, was designed to generate empathy on a massive scale for millions of Americans impacted by the criminal justice system…Those gathered at the Statehouse highlighted the needs and shared the perspective of Americans impacted by the current justice system — with speakers ranging from incarcerated individuals working to transform themselves to people with criminal records desperately seeking a second chance.

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  • Senators push criminal justice reform

    “The criminal justice system, from the front end to the back end . . . is broken, it’s deeply broken,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, one of about a dozen senators who have filed criminal justice reform bills this session.

    The senators characterized the reforms as a matter of inequality because people of color and low-income residents are disproportionately incarcerated. It is also a financial imperative, they said, because it is expensive to keep people behind bars.

    A 2016 report by MassINC, a nonpartisan think tank, found that Roxbury residents are incarcerated at twice the rate of Boston residents as a whole. It also found that more was spent incarcerating residents of the Codman Square neighborhood in Dorchester in 2013 than was spent on grants for gang prevention for the entire state of Massachusetts.

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  • A tipping point for criminal justice reform

    MARK TWAIN made famous the adage that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    Over the years, piles of reform proposals on an array of issues have been decided by statistical analyses that could be colored dozens of different ways. But when statistics show that in some parts of the city, residents from nearly every other home on some streets are ending up in jail, the need for wholesale change is irrefutable.

  • Neighborhoods Hit Disproportionately By Incarceration

    Benjamin Forman is the research director for the policy group MassINC, which was a co-author of the report. He acknowledged there’s a high crime rate in these communities.

     

    “But at some point, sending more folks off to prison is actually not the best answer, and the research is pretty clear about why,” Forman said. If a lot of people on your block are incarcerated, he said, going to prison starts to seem normal. “In neighborhoods where you have a lot of gang activity and drug trade, if you’re sending another youth off to prison, you’re just leading to the recruitment of another youth.” Read more…

     

  • Report: High Incarceration Rates Harm Boston’s Communities Of Color

    Ben Forman, of MassINC, said some neighborhoods cross a threshold where incarceration becomes more harmful than helpful.
    “After 30 years of get-tough-on-crime policies, certain neighborhoods in the city of Boston have mass incarceration where almost every other house has a person lost to incarceration,” he said. “That really affects the fabric of the community.” Read more…
  • Incarceration’s toll falls unevenly in Boston

    “In the communities of color in our city, nearly every other home, at least every other street has been affected by incarceration,” said Ben Forman, the research director at the independent think tank MassINC and an author of the report. “When you have so many families all at once affected by incarceration, that neighborhood cannot be healthy.” Read more…

  • Sheriffs Michael Ashe, Frank Cousins laud opioid bill at MassINC criminal justice conference

    BOSTON — In remarks at a conference on criminal justice reform at UMass Boston Friday, two retiring Massachusetts sheriffs with a combined 62 years of experience praised a state law passed this week to fight opioid addiction.

    “As you look at the opiate crisis, it’s a medical issue, it’s a public health issue. It’s not a criminal justice issue, where we’re putting people who are obviously addicted, compounding it by putting the criminal justice system on their backs,” said Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe. “It’s quite a cross.”

    Ashe, who has been sheriff since 1974, and Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins, who has been sheriff since 1996, were the keynote speakers at the annual conference, organized by Boston-based policy group MassINC. The sheriffs discussed the importance of addressing drug addiction and other needs that inmates have before they can successfully return to society.

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  • Mass. probation chief: State ‘over-criminalizing people’

    BOSTON — Responsible for monitoring nearly 90,000 individuals, the Bay State’s probation chief recently warned against overly strict supervision, saying he wants to focus on cases with the highest risk of failure.

    “The system’s sort of like a machine — it pulls you in, and we monitor your behavior, and we document every time you’re late,” Probation Commissioner Ed Dolan said during a recent panel discussion. “There’s a danger of sort of over-criminalizing people.”

    Probation officers keep tabs on defendants ahead of their trial and after conviction at the order of a judge — sometimes tracking their location around the clock.

    Begun in 2001 and expanded since then, the electronic monitoring of probationers now includes 2,391 offenders whose locations are tracked via satellite and 479 who wear bracelets reporting whether they are at home. Dolan said there is too much electronic monitoring.

    “In many cases, we’re over-conditioning people, over-supervising,” Dolan said at the panel organized by the think tank MassINC. “I have 3,000 people on GPS today. I really don’t think 3,000 people need to be on GPS today. I think we’re sort of over-using that resource in a lot of ways.”

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  • Mass. panel explores ways to reduce young repeat offenders

    BOSTON (WWLP) – Young adults are more likely to end up in a Massachusetts prison, and return again after they have been released.

    A panel of speakers gathered at the State House Tuesday to discuss new approaches to help young, repeat offenders. State Senator William Brownsberger, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said while incarceration rates have dipped slightly in Massachusetts, problems still exist in the criminal justice system.

    “Our incarceration rates are still roughly five times, five times what they were in Massachusetts forty years ago,” said Senator Brownsberger (D-Belmont).

    The independent think tank MassINC believes judges, prosecutors, correctional officers and lawmakers should consider why some young adults, ages 18-24, end up in jail time and time again. It may involve their environment growing up.

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  • Research On Maturing Brains Leads To Attempts To Reduce Youth Recidivism

    According to a report the think tank MassINC published in December, young adults under 24 years old are more likely to go to Massachusetts prisons than any other group—and they end up back there the fastest.

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  • Clive McFarlane: Schools are ripe for criminal justice reforms

    Another area of progress on the social justice front was noted by MassINC in a policy brief published earlier this month. According to the brief, juvenile commitments to Department of Youth Services facilities fell by 72 percent from 2004 to 2013.

    Researchers attributed the change in part to the juvenile courts and DYS eschewing court involvement in favor of “developmentally appropriate responses to problematic behavior among adolescents.” MassINC noted in particular a diversion program being used by Worcester Juvenile Court Judge Carol Erskine and her colleagues across the state.

    Between 2004 and 2013, the program, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, used a range of diversion programs and other services to reduce the number of young people awaiting trial in detention by more than 60 percent, according to the MassINC brief.

    Benjamin Forman, one of the MassINC researchers, said the developmentally appropriate practices adopted by the juvenile court and DYS “have likely played a direct role in reducing arrests and incarcerations,” which fell by 37 percent between 2004 to 2013.

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  • The trouble with bail — and some alternatives

    Bail has a very clear purpose in the criminal justice system. It’s a refundable deposit, designed to ensure that people who are charged with a crime show up for their day in court. That’s all.

    Yet bail can have some pretty perverse side effects, especially for the poor. If paying money is a precondition for getting out of jail, then those without money will often get stuck.

    And across the country, local jails are full of people who have not been convicted of any crime; they’re locked up simply because they can’t cover their bail.

    Massachusetts is hardly immune. When the research organization MassINC looked at statewide trends, it found that even though arrests have been decreasing across the state, more and more people are getting caught in pretrial detention — held in jail until their trials, not least because they can’t afford bail.

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  • Innocent Until Proven Guilty

    Last week, public policy think tank Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, also known as MassINC, released a study that highlights the racial and ethnic disparities in Massachusetts’ jail population. The study found that black defendants awaiting trial are greatly overrepresented in some areas of the state, attributable, in part, to far higher average bail amounts. This speaks to a larger trend of racial disparity in incarceration in Massachusetts. Though the state has one of the lowest overall incarceration rates in the country, the numbers for black residents are closer to the national average and relatively high for Latinos.

    The study and its results stand as an indictment of the way the criminal justice system works in Massachusetts and across the nation, where too many people, and especially people of color are funneled into a broken prison system. Luckily, the Commonwealth has a readily available way to improve its problem:Legislation currently before the House would introduce risk assessment tools to promote a fairer pretrial process.

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  • Study: Large Number of Minorities Detained While Awaiting Trial

    A think tank says a disproportionate number of racial minorities are in jail as they await trial and those granted bail face amounts up to four times higher than white defendants in some Massachusetts counties.

    Those counties include Barnstable, in which MassINC found that black residents make up 2.4 percent of the county’s population but represent 25 percent of the county’s pretrial detainees.

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  • Minorities more likely to be ordered held awaiting trial, study says

    A disproportionate number of racial minorities are in jail as they await trial, and those who are granted bail face amounts up to four times higher than white defendants in some Massachusetts counties, according to a study on pretrial detention.

    The report released Tuesday by MassINC, an independent Boston think tank, looked at pretrial detention in 10 counties and found the most striking disparities in Barnstable, Franklin, Berkshire, and Norfolk.

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  • Report Urges Reforms To Address Racial Disparities In Mass. Pretrial Detainees

    Counties across Massachusetts have large racial disparities in the composition of defendants who are awaiting trial in jail, a report finds.

    In Barnstable County, on Cape Cod, African-American residents make up just 2.4 percent of the population, but nearly 25 percent of all pretrial detainees, according to the policy brief by the think tank MassINC, which has advocated for criminal justice reforms in Massachusetts, including the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.

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  • Report: MA’s Criminal Justice Policies Costly, Ineffective

    Go Local Worcester – Report: MA’s Criminal Justice Policies Costly, Ineffective
    A Bay State non-partisan think tank and polling group,Massacchusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), says that the Commonwealth is spending too much on criminal justice and not seeing the benefits.

  • Report: State criminal sentencing laws are costly with little benefit

    MetroWest Daily News – Report: State criminal sentencing laws are costly with little benefit

    With correction costs spiraling upwards, Massachusetts should impose a moratorium on state and county prison expansion, revisit its “tough on crime” sentencing laws and expand programs aimed at preventing recidivism, according to a report released Monday by MassINC and a new coalition helmed by prominent former criminal defense, prosecutorial and public safety officials.

  • Massachusetts Has a Terribly Outdated Criminal Justice System

    Boston Magazine – Massachusetts Has a Terribly Outdated Criminal Justice System

    Ever since Michael Dukakis saw his presidential campaign torpedoed over the furlough of convicted murderer Willie Horton, Massachusetts politicians have erred on the side of being tough on crime, pushing for mandatory minimum sentencing and tough parole boards.

    Yesterday, think tank MassINC released a powerful study title “Crime, Cost, and Consequences: Is it Time to Get Smart on Crime?” which explores the data and expenses behind criminal justice policy in Massachusetts.

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