MassINC Year In Review

Looking back at our work in 2016

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! 2016 has been an incredible year for the MassINC family which includes our Policy Center, CommonWealth magazine and the MassINC Polling Group.

Please take a moment to look through the highlights of substantive research, civic events, and journalism from 2016 and consider making a year-end donation that will help us continue our efforts to improve the quality of life in the Commonwealth in 2017. Visit our websites and social media regularly to stay informed about progress on these important issues in the New Year.

Greg Torres, President of MassINC and Publisher of CommonWealth magazine

The Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition

 – Research –

The Geography of Incarceration CoverThe Geography of Incarceration: The Cost and Consequences of High Incarceration Rates in Vulnerable City Neighborhoods

This paper explores the geography of incarceration in Boston, providing timely information as state leaders engage in an unprecedented effort to find strategies to operate our criminal justice system in a more cost-effective manner, and redirect the savings toward models that decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods. The first phase of this federally-funded endeavor, which is known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), is expected to conclude in January with the filing of comprehensive reform legislation.

With three-quarters of those convicted of a crime in Massachusetts having had prior involvement with the justice system, there is now growing agreement among public sector leaders, many of whom are involved in the JRI process, that our system is failing to “correct” the behavior of individuals who pose harm to the community. To date, the reform conversation has focused heavily on the over reliance of correctional facilities to manage people with substance use and mental health disorders. While this is certainly a major problem that has to be addressed, leaders can also use this opportunity to reassess how policies leading to mass incarceration have differentially affected low-income minority neighborhoods.

Building an equally strong consensus around this concern is important, as many see relatively low overall incarceration rates in Massachusetts as indication that our state has avoided the worst of mass incarceration. But over the last three decades, incarceration has actually risen at a faster rate in Massachusetts than in the nation overall and tough on crime policies have driven incarceration rates up to exceptionally high levels in Boston’s communities of color. Learn more.

young offenders brief coverViewing Justice Reinvestment Through a Developmental Lens: New approaches to reducing young adult recidivism in Massachusetts

Residents ages 18 to 24 are the most likely demographic to find their way into Massachusetts prisons and the quickest to return to them upon release. Innovative models to serve justice-involved young adults have enormous potential to reduce recidivism. These new approaches are also central to increasing public safety in high-crime neighborhoods, where young adults are generally responsible for the most destructive violence.

The second installment in our Justice Reinvestment Policy Brief Series, this paper contrasts the sharp drop in juvenile offending in Massachusetts-driven in part by the adoption of an intervention model informed by the latest developmental science-with the more moderate decline in young adult offending over the past decade. The brief concludes with a series of recommendations to reduce recidivism among justice-involved young adults through evidence-based policy and practice. Learn more.

Reentry Policy Brief CoverReducing Recidivism in Massachusetts with a Comprehensive Reentry Strategy

More than two-thirds of defendants sentenced to state and county prisons in Massachusetts have had prior incarcerations, according to new analysis presented in this policy brief. Comprehensive change is necessary to reduce this elevated level of repeat offending and improve public safety.

The third installment in a series exploring various components of reform, this paper focuses on reentry, presenting data to describe the dimensions of repeat offending in Massachusetts, summarizing the extensive literature on evidence-based reentry programs, and reviewing recent experiences in other states working to improve reentry services. Learn more.

1Mounting an Evidence-Based Criminal Justice Response to Substance Abuse and Drug Offending in Massachusetts 

Solutions to better treat and manage substance abuse are paramount to an effective Justice Reinvestment strategy. Too many residents suffering from substance abuse disorder continue to enter the criminal justice system, which struggles to help these individuals recover from a life-threatening disease. For many offenders, un- or undertreated substance abuse aggravates anti-social behavior and lengthens criminal careers. The resulting cycle of recidivism creates significant costs for communities and places a significant strain on public resources.

The fourth installment in our Justice Reinvestment Policy Brief Series, this paper explores available data on substance use in Massachusetts, examines the range of evidence-based practice at each stage in the criminal justice system, and describes efforts to implement these approaches in the Commonwealth. The paper concludes with ideas for how policymakers and criminal justice and law enforcement officials can work together to lead Massachusetts into a new era of responding to substance abuse with evidence-based practice. Learn more.

Harnessing the Power of Data for Justice Reinvestment in Massachusetts2

Data are increasingly the lifeblood of an effective criminal justice system. Modern technology allows agencies to collect and exchange high-quality, actionable information. These data help frontline workers make informed decisions that reduce risk. And they provide managers and policymakers with vital information for the optimal allocation of resources. The fifth installment in our Justice Reinvestment Policy Brief Series, this white paper offers a short primer on criminal justice information systems, the status of efforts to build this infrastructure in Massachusetts, and key steps the Commonwealth can take to wield data as a tool to enhance public safety. Learn more.

Justice Reinvestment At-A-Glance: Community Correctionsfact sheet cover

This Justice Reinvestment At-a-Glance report examines community corrections. Community corrections is an enhanced form of probation. Instead of incarceration, individuals are sentenced to intensive services and supervision in the community. The data presented here show that, among individuals in Massachusetts convicted for offenses where community corrections may be appropriate, very few receive this alternative to incarceration. Learn more.


  – Events –


Mike AshThe Third Annual Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Policy Summit 

Earlier this year over 200 leaders gathered for the Third Annual Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Policy Summit. Kevin Burke, a coalition co-chair and former Secretary of Public Safety, kicked off the summit by noting that this year’s convening held special significance. Massachusetts is entering a crucial phase of reform with the Council of State Governments conducting a top-to-bottom review of our criminal justice system. Acknowledging the successes of the past year, most notably with responding to the opioid crisis, he urged members of the Coalition to continue working with and supporting leaders fashioning a comprehensive reform agenda.

Two of Massachusetts’ longest serving sheriffs – Hampden County’s Mike Ash and Essex County’s Frank Cousins – gave keynote addresses, offering compelling thoughts on the progress that has been made through collaboration and opportunities to achieve further success by working together. Two panels of policy experts picked up on this theme, exploring cross-agency collaboration on data sharing and cross-agency collaboration to better serve individuals struggling with substance abuse and other behavioral health disorders. Learn more.

Gov MalloyPerspectives on Leadership for CJ Reform from CT Gov. Dannel Malloy

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy headlined a Kennedy School forum to press his case for serving young adults differently in the US criminal justice system. Focusing strategically on justice-involved young adults to reduce recidivism was the topic of a recent MassINC policy brief, as well as a report issued last fall by the Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

Governor Malloy shared lessons learned during his early professional experience as a prosecutor in New York City. Foremost among them was an understanding that the corrections system would quickly change if it impacted all communities the way it affected minority neighborhoods.  Learn more.

Reducing recidivism: Criminal justice reform leaders from Massachusetts gather to examine strategies

TBF panelMassINC gathered at The Boston Foundation with criminal justice reform leaders from Massachusetts and beyond to examine strategies to reduce recidivism. The public forum coincided with the release of new MassINC research estimating that repeat offenders make up more than two-thirds of defendants committed to state and county prisons in Massachusetts each year. An overflow crowd joined the conversation, which began with presentations from Ben Forman, MassINC’s Research Director, and Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology at the Kennedy School of Government.

Dr. Ana Yáñez-Correa, Program Officer for Criminal Justice at the Public Welfare Foundation, shared her experience working in Texas to refocus the criminal justice system on increasing public safety through recidivism reduction; Michael Lawlor, Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning for Connecticut, provided his  perspective on how states are overhauling their corrections systems to reduce repeat offending and increase public safety; Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless shared experiences on behalf of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association; Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU, gave his perspectives as a former DA and now as an advocate for reform; and Conan Harris, Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety Initiatives, described how Boston approaches these problems, as the destination for the largest number of inmates returning to the community. Learn more.

Brain scienceReducing Youth Recidivism Isn’t Rocket Science, It’s Brain Science

Changing Massachusetts’ approach to young offenders should be a central focus for the state’s efforts to reduce recidivism and increase public safety. The State House forum brought together experts in the field to discuss the state’s current approach to dealing with justice-involved young adults and opportunities to improve outcomes by changing policy and practice.  The panel included Vinny Schiraldi, the Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at the Kennedy School of Government;  Senator Will Brownsberger, Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary; Molly Baldwin, founder and CEO of ROCA;  and Ed Dolan, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Probation Service. Naoka Carey , the Executive Director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice led the conversation.

While each panelist expressed different perspectives on why youth have repeat interactions with the criminal justice system, they all agreed that current science shows that to curb the high rate of recidivism among justice-involved young adults the state needs to find more appropriate ways to address their developmental needs while they are involved in the criminal justice system. Learn more.

GC logo

Advancing the Gateway Cities Vision 1Advancing the Gateway Cities Vision: The Potential of Next-Generation Approaches to Education Accountability

We’ve got a prime opportunity to advance the Gateway Cities Vision. In 2013, Gateway City leaders came together to develop an “education vision.” Their farsighted plan leverages unique urban assets to create exceptional learning environments. Achieving this vision is fundamental to making Gateway

Cities more attractive communities for families to live and more productive places for employers to locate. In today’s economy, nothing is more central to the economic revitalization of these cities and their regions than realizing this education vision.

That is why Gateway City leaders must be attuned to the ongoing discussion about changing Massachusetts’s approach to education accountability. To comply with federal law under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Massachusetts will overhaul its education accountability policies in early 2017.  Learn more.

WDTCS coverWorkforce Development Transformation Case Studies: Three Examples of Systems Change through Collaborative Gateway City Leadership

It is with great pleasure that we offer three case studies to complement the report Calling All Leaders: An Action Guide to Workforce Development Transformation. The action guide outlined the grand dimensions of the challenge by the numbers, and contrasted the need for workforce development services with the limited resources available.
In addition to reading these case studies, we strongly encourage you to visit our website to view highlights from our interviews. At a time when understanding is limited about how government seeks to respond to the complex challenges we face is limited, this video archive is a trove of documentary evidence that can be mined and shared in many different formats to reveal examples of strong and well-intentioned public leadership. Learn more.

horizontalcovermadeverticalCalling all Gateway City Leaders: An action Guide to Workforce Development Transformation in Massachusetts

In Gateway City regions with an aging and under-skilled labor force, workforce development is an essential ingredient for future economic growth. This new “action guide” provides a helpful playbook for local leaders looking to engage in efforts to transform these systems. In plain English, the report breaks down workforce development to give municipal leaders a better sense of how the field. New analysis dissects the demand for these services in Gateway City markets, and best practices for improving participant outcomes. This information is set against the backdrop of changes ushered in by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which took effect last year, as well as broader efforts to reinvent education and career training for a rapidly shifting economy. Learn more.

rebulding renewalRebuilding Renewal: An Analysis of State Investment in Gateway Cities and a Work Plan for Delivering Transformative Development

Over the last decade, Massachusetts has fundamentally shifted its understanding of the needs and opportunities of small-to-medium-sized cities anchoring the Commonwealth’s regional economies. The state now places considerable priority on efforts to make these so-called Gateway Cities stronger drivers of growth. But, despite this focus, economic conditions in Gateway Cities remain fundamentally weak.

As recent efforts have not moved the needle, we must ask what it will take to help Gateway Cities resume their key function as drivers of regional growth and economic mobility. To help answer that question, this study presents new information and analysis on state investment in Gateway Cities. Learn more.

                                   – Events –

The Fourth Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards and Summit


A warm thank you to all of the Gateway City leaders who traveled to Springfield for the fourth annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards and Summit. As always, your spirit and optimism were infectious. We especially want to recognize this year’s award winners.

For those who were unable to join us, please take a moment to watch the videos and hear about the powerful work being done directly from the leaders themselves. Also check out Workforce Development Transformation Case Studies: Three Examples of Systems Change through Collaborative Gateway City Leadership, new research released at the event profiling innovative solutions to shared challenges.

We’re especially grateful to the City of Springfield for hosting us this year. Despite the rain and clouds, Springfield provided a beautiful backdrop that optimized the hope, opportunity, and collaborative energy unique to our Gateway Cities.

WarrenNew Opportunities for Urban Education

Gateway City leaders assembled at Clark University for an address by Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Every Child Succeeds Act. At the same institution where they met in 2013 to draft a shared vision for community-wide learning, Gateway City leaders joined a dialogue about opportunities in the new federal law to advance their shared agenda.

Senator Warren, and the four education experts that led a panel conversation responding to her remarks, focused on the accountability provisions in the new legislation. All agreed that the new law is an improvement on the No Child Left Behind Act. But they also emphasized concern that the flexibility provided by the new act could translate into less rigor in schools serving disadvantaged students, leading to wider achievement gaps. The panelist were particularly pointed in noting that our systems currently lack the capacity to develop and implement the innovative approaches to assessment that many educators see as the most promising features of the new law. Learn more.

Gateway Cities housing forum: Video and key takeaways from the Housing Opportunities in Gateway Cities Forum

Gateway City housing leaders gathered in Worcester for a housing forum jointly sponsored by MassINC, the Worcester HousingMunicipal Research Bureau, and the City of Worcester. A fabulous contingent of state and local housing experts took on a range of problems and put forward substantive ideas to solve them. For those who weren’t able to join us, please see video below of all three panels, as well as addresses delivered by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay.

While the forum was structured to examine housing from different vantage points (affordable housing, market-rate housing, and fair housing), three cross-cutting themes emerged: Education, Scale, and Funding. Learn more.

A community conversation: Transformative development in Springfield

SpringfieldOn June 30th, MassINC joined the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission for a community conversation on transformative development in Springfield. The forum was held at Make-It Springfield, a pop-up makerspace launched with support from MassDevelopment’s TDI program. Managed in partnership with the UMass Design Center in Springfield, the space has revitalized a vacant storefront bringing new energy to the city’s TDI district.

The conversation began with a presentation from Dan Hodge highlighting findings from MassINC’s Rebuilding Renewal report. This was followed by a panel of respondents, including Samalid Hogan, Director of the Holyoke Innovation District; Laura Masulis, Springfield TDI Fellow; Peter Miller, Director of Community Development, Westfield; and Mike Vedovelli, Director of Community and Economic Development, Chicopee. Learn more.

Rebuilding Renewal: Helping Gateway Cities resume their key function as drivers of regional growth and economic mobility

RebuildingOver the last decade, Massachusetts has fundamentally shifted its understanding of the needs and opportunities of Gateway Cities. But, despite this focus, economic conditions in these communities remain fundamentally weak. As recent efforts have not moved the needle,

we must ask what it will take to help Gateway Cities resume their key function as drivers of regional growth and economic mobility. To help answer that question, MassINC is proud to present Rebuilding Renewal.

Produced in partnership with Hodge Economic Consulting, this new analysis of state investment in Gateway Cities demonstrates that, if there is to be measurable beneficial impact in Gateway Cities, the state must continue efforts to create a comprehensive transformative development policy.

To stimulate dialogue around these new findings and the progress we have made toward such a policy, MassINC convened a cross-section of local and state leaders in Lowell on Monday. The Pioneer Institute and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation joined us to share their latest research on Gateway City economic and fiscal conditions. Following these presentations and a panel of expert respondents, Secretary Ash offered his views and led a robust exchange of ideas. Learn more.

Copy of presents (3)

Through in-depth conversations with policy experts and fellow educators from across New England, members of the Next Generation Accountability Learning Community (NGALC) was established to identify opportunities and challenges the new law presents for schools serving large concentrations of high-need students.

untitled-design-32Exploring Foundational Questions For Next Generation Accountability

These reflections have been prepared by the staff of the Next Generation Accountability Learning Community (NGALC). The NGALC is a group of roughly two dozen New England educators interested in the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) from the perspective of small-to-midsize urban districts. In the pages that follow, we summarize foundational questions that this learning community is confronting for the benefit of readers concerned about the future of accountability in the small-to-midsize city context. This dispatch is the first in a series of texts that will document the learning community’s progress and engage a wider group of stakeholders in our timely dialogue.

The NGALC gathered recently in Boston for the first of three summer meetings. Members in attendance included state agency officials, classroom teachers, superintendents, principals, and union representatives. Many of these participants wear several hats as education leaders at school, district, and state levels, within professional associations, and across realms of policy and practice. They were joined by project advisors and staff. Learn more.

dispatches-9-12-16-7-cover_page_1Establishing Principles for Accountability: Perspectives from small-to-midsize urban districts and their allies

This paper lays out three sets of ideas to support local and state leaders in their efforts to ensure the success of accountability work in small-to-midsize urban districts:

  1. A set of core purpose principles to clarify what accountability systems should do, why they matter, and how to honor their critical roles.
  1. A set of design principles for states as they take on the job of developing the new statewide accountability systems that ESSA mandates and that states and their stakeholders envision.
  1. A set of design principles for local districts, outlining how local systems, with the right supports from states and other allies, can begin to exercise leadership in shaping and spearheading accountability systems and practices.

NGALC project staff have developed these principles by drawing on the diverse range of ideas generated during Learning Community conversations, and by studying DISPATCHES from the Next Generation Accountability Learning Community for Small-to-Midsize Urban Districts 2 the research that the Learning Community has tapped over the past four months. Learn more.

NGALC cover_Page_01Next Generation Education Accountability: Design Ideas from New England’s Small-to-Midsize Urban School Districts

Can policymakers take hold of the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and create new approaches to education accountability that accelerate opportunity and learning for all students? With generous support from the Barr Foundation, the Next Generation Accountability Learning Community (NGALC) examined this question over the past five months with an emphasis on small-to-midsize cities-communities that serve a disproportionate share of disadvantaged students across the New England states.

After close consultation with Learning Community members, the NGALC project staff have prepared this final report. This paper refines accountability purpose and design principles developed previously in two Learning Community Dispatches. Extensive dialog around these principles has led us toward a “mutual accountability” approach.

To realize this model, we call on states to set a high bar for student achievement, and work with districts to design next generation assessments to more clearly and deliberately measure and support improvement in teaching and learning. We challenge states to acknowledge the leadership and commitment of local school districts and engage them in accountability policy making. And we challenge local districts to set priorities and develop specific local accountability strategies that address them. Learn more


CWCommonWealth is journalism at its best: in-depth, balanced, and independent. It is also the type of journalism that’s badly needed today as the economic model that fuels most news media is running out of gas.

We cover politics, policy, ideas, and civic life, with an emphasis on investigative reporting, in-depth analysis, and political mapping. We also provide a forum for policy makers and politicians to set forth their opinions. There’s nothing gimmicky about it, which is what makes it so unique.

Our print magazine (click here to read past issues) is released quarterly while our online magazine allows us to continue our coverage between issues.

CommonWealth’s recent successes include: groundbreaking investigations into the MBTA, criminal justice reform, education practices, and tax subsidies; long-form articles on education reforms; public records laws; renewable energy, and state and municipal finance reforms. The magazine also puts out a podcast and two very popular newsletters.

The Codcast: On May 6, CommonWealth magazine launched our podcast, The Codcast, named after the sacred cod hanging in the chamber of the House of Representatives. Click here to subscribe.

Back Story: A weekly column sent to subscribers that gives the story behind the story in politics and public policy by CommonWealth writers. Click here to subscribe.

The Download: A daily feature that compiles all of the best coverage of politics and public policy from that day’s newspapers, magazines, broadcasts and blogs – complete with analysis to help make sense of it all. Click here to subscribe.

On June 7th, CommonWealth Editor Bruce Mohl and former Governor William Weld sat down to discuss the political landscape, as well as look back at the last 20 years. Click here to watch the interview.


The MassINC Polling Group continues our now 5 year polling and political research partnership with WBUR, focusing on Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Our polls called the MA and NH presidential election results each within a single point of the final margin.

KoczelaSteve Koczela continues to write for WBUR Politicker and regularly appears on the air.

In addition, MPG’s work supports the MassINC Gateway Cities Education Vision with new polling on innovative accountability frameworks. MPG has also released in-depth polling on race relations and policing for The Boston Foundation, and recently partnered with the Mary Christie Foundation to study parent attitudes on college social life.

The MassINC Polling Group continued to serve our many private clients with timely and insightful polling and market research to help meet their goals.

 MassINC Celebrates 20 Years with Serious Fun II!

On December 1, members from the community came together to celebrate MassINC and CommonWealth magazine’s 20th Anniversary.

For those of you who were unable to attend, it was a wonderful gathering of MassINC friends, old and new, and you can now see the photos from the evening and share the videos with anyone who was not able to join us.

The special event featured taped comedy from officials including Governor Baker, former Governors Dukakis and Weld, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Marty Walsh and Attorney General Maura Healey, proving that Massachusetts is full of good sports when it comes to a great cause by participating in Serious Fun II, MassINC’s 20th anniversary celebration and fundraiser.

We want to say thank you to all of our elected officials, current and former, who generously took part in the evening, as well as our sponsors for their commitment to our organization and mission to create pathways to the middle class for all Massachusetts residents.120116_MassInc_124

  Looking Forward!

As we move into 2017, we look forward to continuing our mission with you. MassINC was built around the conviction that better outcomes would be achieved if policy makers and opinion leaders were armed with credible data and analysis about key issues surrounding quality of life in Massachusetts. Unbiased, fact-based analysis has always been a cornerstone of MassINC’s work and has made us the organization of record for policy analysis and civic engagement.

And right now, with your donation, MassINC will continue to advance policy and practice that shrinks the opportunity gap, improves the quality of life for the middle class, and promotes an open democracy.

With our gratitude and best wishes to you and yours for a happy & healthy New Year! Special thanks to our sponsors and funders who help make our work possible.

Greg Torres, Lauren Louison, Bruce Mohl, Ben Forman, Steve Koczela, and the rest ofthe team at MassINC!

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