• 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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  • How to make sure every student succeeds

    MassInc. Research Director Ben Forman said that for so-called Gateway Cities like Pittsfield, urban centers outside of Boston that are critical indicators of the state of the commonwealth, to advance, they must enhance their educational assets and vision to create high-quality learning environments.

    “If the new formula the state designs to sort schools is not sensitive to the complexity of inclusive urban districts,” Forman wrote in a December 2016 policy paper, “Gateway Cities will have great difficulty attracting both families with young children and talented educators to their communities.”

    MassInc. convened a public breakfast forum at the Berkshire Museum last week, in partnership with the Berkshire Compact for Education, to address how to best improve the state’s current accountability system.

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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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  • Grading the schools: New standards to factor in advanced courses, career prep

    Federal No Child Left Behind legislation measured schools based on test scores, too narrow a gauge for most observers.

    But how will schools in Springfield, Holyoke and other Massachusetts Gateway Cities respond to new standards that require a broader measure of how well a school is doing?

    “Everybody says that a thing that gets measured gets managed,” said Benjamin Forman, research director for MassINC, a Boston think tank. “What is happening now is that people are taking broader measures of school performance.”

    Forman hosted a series of panel discussions Thursday in Springfield in an effort to learn how schools in Gateway Cities — older industrial communities now struggling to reinvent their economies — can have a say in new school criteria and use them to their advantage.

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  • New Bedford could fare better in new school evaluation system

    MassINC and the Univeristy of Massachusetts Dartmouth hosted a breakfast meeting Monday at the Waypoint Event Center to discuss potential changes.

    Matthew Deninger of DESE told the group that as the state rewrites the rules for measuring school quality, it could consider such factors as access to the arts, a well-rounded curriculum, advanced coursework in high schools, school climate and culture, and the rate of chronic absenteeism.

    “ESSA provides us an opportunity to push our thinking,” he said.

    Ben Forman, research director at MassINC, said the state’s system of accountability has helped raise achievement to the point where low-income Massachusetts students now rank first in the nation in Grade 8 math, the same as all eighth-graders in the state, whereas in 2003, low-income students ranked 26th, far behind the general population, which ranked third.

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  • Experts: Look beyond scores to measure school success in cities like Lowell

    A thinktank that co-sponsored the forum, the Massachusetts Institute for a new Commonwealth, or MassINC, is helping gateway cities and school leaders take advantage of the new education act as a way to advocate for their school districts.

    A MassINC report on ESSA shows the challenges that Lowell and other gateway cities face. An average of two-thirds of students in such districts are from low-income families, a major increase from 2002, and claim a disproportionate share of students who are foreign-born or do not speak English as their native language, according to the group.
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  • Panel says there are many ways to measure students beyond tests

    WORCESTER – A teachers union president, a school administrator, and a high school student all agreed at a panel conversation Thursday morning: there is room in the state’s next accountability standards for factors other than test scores.

    Other speakers at the event, which was hosted by MassINC and the Worcester Education Collaborative at the Beechwood Hotel, also expressed optimism that Worcester and other “Gateway Cities” in the state in particular could be helped by a new approach to measuring school success.

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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.

  • Worcester Superintendent of Schools Maureen Binienda receives Gateway Cities award for creating more opportunities for students

    SPRINGFIELD — Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda has worked to create partnerships with local corporations and non-profits to create more opportunities for students.

    Those efforts earned her an award at the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, or MassINC, fourth annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards and Summit.

    At the event on Tuesday, Binienda accepted the Gateway Cities Champion Award, given annually to someone who has shown “exceptional leadership,” MassINC said in a statement.

    “I was humbled to get the award because there are so many people doing great work,” she said Wednesday morning.

    The event, held at the MassMutual Center, seemed to have a recurring message of collaboration, Binienda said, which especially stood out to her. She took in stories of other people and organizations who addressed problems by looking beyond themselves.

    “Collaboration is the only answer,” she said.

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  • 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…

  • Boston real estate four times as expensive as in Gateway Cities

    On the surface, that seems like a plus for house-hunters and businesses looking to relocate in Gateway Cities — but it actually has negative consequences. The low cost of housing means it is not financially worthwhile for developers to build there, so the cities and their economies are not growing.

    That is one of the key pieces of information included in a new study released by the MassINC think tank called Rebuilding Renewal.

    The study identifies the economic challenges faced by Gateway Cities due to slumping real estate prices. Although Massachusetts already invests disproportionately in Gateway Cities, the study recommends that the state increase its efforts to invest in what MassINC calls “transformative development,” which means building projects that are meant to catalyze other development in the surrounding areas.

    “Urban neighborhoods are attractive to people today… On the other hand, these neighborhoods aren’t improving the way we would like them to,” said Ben Forman, research director for MassINC.

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  • Boston real estate boom not giving boost to cities like New Bedford

    “It’s really striking that Massachusetts spent more on courthouses in Gateway Cities than on housing or economic development,” said Benjamin Forman, research director at MassInc. “We need to approach every single dollar spent in these cities by thinking how can this dollar create more growth block by block.”

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  • 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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  • Sen. Warren calls for federal help with public ed in Clark speech

    U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave Clark University’s annual Lee Gurel lecture on Monday at the university immediately preceding a symposium focusing on urban education and federal law, and the nationally-known Democratic politician drew applause and amens from a crowd eager to hear her plans on improving urban education.

    The talk was co-sponsored by Clark and MassINC, and the speakers who introduced Warren spent some time talking about Worcester as a “gateway city,” with some needs and areas to improve, especially around education.

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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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  • Bridgewater State University president emphasizes degree production

    Think tank MassInc and the UMass Donahue Institute, in their 2014 At the Apex “educational attainment forecast,” say the state, extending through the year 2030, faces a major conundrum as its “highly skilled Baby Boom generation ages out of the state’s work force” while “the supply of college-educated workers … ebbs to just a slow trickle.” The analysis also concluded that while Massachusetts, compared to other states, still has the highest share of native residents with at least a bachelor’s degree, it also will see its rate of increase in its population over the age of 25 with a bachelor’s degree fall dramatically – from 27 percent in the 1990 to 2010 period, to 13 percent in the 2010s, to 3 percent in the 2020s.

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  • Mayor Faces ‘Rite of Passage’: A Campaign Seeking His Exit

    LAWRENCE, Mass. — Daniel Rivera, a first-term mayor who promised to change the pockmarked political landscape of this underdog mill city, has not been charged with a crime or accused of graft.

  • 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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  • Crime-fighting summit draws AG, area police chiefs, mayors

    Attorney General Maura Healey on Thursday addressed a closed-door meeting of 25 mayors, police chiefs and other officials from around the state who gathered to swap policing strategies.

    The meeting at the downtown campus of Northern Essex Community College was closed to the public. But afterward, Healey and others said it focused on helping police in the state’s so-called gateway cities – mid-sized cities that are struggling to regain their economies after their manufacturing industries failed or left – share best practices in fighting crime.
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  • Dohan honored as a Gateway Cities innovator

    Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise – Dohan honored as a Gateway Cities innovator
    The Gateway Cities Innovative Institute, an organization created by the think tank MassINC, celebrated its first anniversary at a luncheon on Tuesday that included the issuing of these awards.

  • Gateway Cities target education

    Worcester Telegram & Gazette – Gateway Cities target education

    Fitchburg Mayor Lisa A. Wong and Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll were co-chairmen of the initiative, which involved dozens of people and is supported by the MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Institute.

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