• EDITORIAL: Cut the waste before enacting new tax schemes

    As for efficiencies, one likely candidate appears to be the state’s correctional system, where a 12 percent drop in the inmate population since 2011 hasn’t been offset with a similar decrease in spending. Rather, it’s increased 18 percent over the same period. Those contradictory figures were the subject of a forum earlier in the week by MassINC and the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

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  • Aim prison budgets at rehabilitation

    THERE IS A LOT of talk in Massachusetts about moving away from the misguided “tough-on-crime” policies of the 1990s and instead embracing a more rehabilitative approach to criminal justice. But as an important new study set for release Monday demonstrates, policy makers aren’t living up to the second part of the bargain.

    The report, from the MassINC think tank, shows that even as the state’s average daily prison population declined by 12 percent over the last five years, corrections spending soared by 18 percent. Read More

  • Report: Massachusetts spending more on corrections, despite declining prison population

    The MassINC think tank, in a new report, criticized state government for increasing spending on corrections even as the inmate population has declined.

    The report found that most of the spending has been on hiring staff and raising salaries, not on programming to benefit inmates and reduce recidivism.

    The MassINC report also highlights disparate spending levels between counties.

    “(Spending has) gone up considerably when the population is going down at a time of very tight state budgets,” said Ben Forman, research director at MassINC. “The question we ask is are those additional dollars going to provide better services to reduce recidivism…. The data suggest they hadn’t, which is troubling.”

    MassINC is pushing for reforms to the state’s correctional system that focus on increasing programs and services for inmates and implementing less harsh sentencing and incarceration practices. It plans to release the research at a summit on criminal justice reform on Monday.

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  • SJC Chief Gants And U.S. Rep. Clark Say End Mandatory Minimum Sentences

    As the Trump administration revives a tough-on-crime strategy, Beacon Hill continues its debate on rethinking how best to treat those convicted of crimes. That debate has put the spotlight on the usually subdued leader of the judicial branch, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants.

    Gants renewed his call for the end of mandatory minimum sentences Monday, saying the cost of incarcerating so many members of society is untenable for the Commonwealth.

    “Mandatory minimum sentencing is a failed experiment that must end. And it must end for all crimes, except the crimes of murder and repeated OUI offenses, not just for drug crimes,” Gants said at a criminal justice summit hosted by MassINC.

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  • Mass. Spending On Incarceration Is Up 18 Percent, Though The Inmate Population Is Down 12 Percent

    The report comes from the nonpartisan think tank MassINC, which advocates for criminal justice reform measures.

    Its authors write that, over the five years, spending “associated with recidivism reduction did not increase significantly, and these services continue to represent a small fraction of total correctional expenditure.”

    “The savings if we’d held the spending growth to inflation would have been $72 million,” co-author Michael Widmer, former president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, told WBUR’s Newscast Unit. “That $72 million could be used dearly elsewhere, including on programs to reduce recidivism.”

    The report follows a survey, from the MassINC Polling Group, that found most Massachusetts voters are concerned about the effects of incarceration. Fifty-three percent of poll respondents said they think that when inmates get out of prison, they are “more likely to commit new crime because they’ve been hardened by their prison experience.”

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  • Report: Spending soars while prison population shrinks

    Spending on state and county correctional facilities grew over the past five years despite a significant decrease in the prison population, according to a new report from a local think tank.

    The report found that the spending increase was focused on raises and new hires for correctional officers, and not on programs for the prisoners, according to MassINC. Their research, which they called “the most detailed report on state correctional expenditure,” is being presented Monday at the organization’s Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Summit.

  • Report: fewer inmates, higher costs

    BOSTON — As the number of people incarcerated in Massachusetts state or county facilities declined since fiscal year 2011, state spending on correctional facilities climbed by about 18 percent, according to a report released Monday.

    Since fiscal 2011 — the highwater mark for the state’s incarcerated population — the average daily number of people incarcerated in state prisons and jails has declined by about 12 percent from 23,850 to 20,961 but state spending for the Department of Correction and the 14 county sheriffs’ offices increased by $181 million to $1.2 billion.

    The report’s findings were the focus of a summit hosted by MassINC and the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition on Monday morning to examine how the state could spend savings associated with a declining inmate population on ancillary programs like drug rehabilitation and mental health counseling to improve the broader criminal justice system.

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  • State prison spending soars despite falling population

    The state’s inmate population has declined in recent years, but Massachusetts is still spending more money to operate jails and prisons, specifically to pay corrections staff, according to an independent criminal justice report that questions the state’s spending priorities.

    Spending for the Department of Correction and the 14 county sheriffs’ offices outpaced inflation and rose 18 percent from 2011 to 2016, reaching $1.2 billion, according to the report by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, or MassINC, a nonpartisan think tank.

    The prison population, which was at its peak in 2011, declined by 3,000 inmates, or 12 percent, in those same years, according to the report.

    The report, which is slated to be presented Monday morning at a Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Policy Summit, raises questions about the state’s spending priorities at a time when legislators and policy makers have proposed reforms to the state’s criminal justice system and the approach to inmates. Scheduled speakers at the summit include Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and US Representative Katherine Clark, Democrat of Melrose.

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  • Poll says state’s citizens trust judges (Editorial)

    A popular perception these days is that the public does not trust judges they see as detached, unrealistic and often too soft on criminals.

    According to a new poll, that’s not true in Massachusetts. Voters surveyed showed support for reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, including giving judges more discretion in sentencing and providing job training and education for inmates.

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  • Poll: Voters want more education for inmates, favor judicial discretion in sentencing

    Massachusetts voters support reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, including giving judges more discretion in sentencing, providing job training and education for inmates, and sealing criminal records sooner, according to a poll released by the MassINC Polling Group on Thursday.

    The polling group is affiliated with the MassINC think tank, which supports criminal justice reform.

    “Massachusetts voters are ready to embrace reform throughout the system,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group. “They support changing practices in everything from sentencing to what happens in prison to policies for what happens after release.”

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  • New poll suggests Mass. voters support criminal justice reform

    Massachusetts voters support aggressive reforms to the state criminal justice system, according to a poll conducted by MassINC, a bipartisan policy think tank.

    The poll found that the plurality of respondents, 46 percent, believe judges should have more discretion in sentencing convicted offenders, rather than requiring them to sentence some offenders to a minimum period of time.

    Criminal justice is a hot topic this year on Beacon Hill, where lawmakers have filed a number of bills to reform the system. Earlier this year lawmakers saw the results of a study the state commissioned on how to reform the system.

    More than half of people polled said they believe incarceration does more harm than good, according to the results, which are set to be discussed Monday at a MassINC forum.

  • 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.

    Read more…

  • 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.

    Read more…

  • 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.

    Read more…

  • 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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