• 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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  • Combating ISIS: Another Cold War

    A survey done in late October and early November by a reputable New England firm, MassINC Polling Group, found that 83 percent of New Hampshire Republicans say “defeating ISIS” is a major national priority. This was the highest ranking of any issue surveyed, including stopping illegal immigration (72 percent), simplifying the tax code (67 percent), repealing Obamacare (62), and reducing federal regulations (61).

    If anything, these numbers have become starker since then. Steve Koczela, president of MassINC, notes that this poll was done before the jihadist massacres in Paris and San Bernardino. “New Hampshire voters were already there in terms of ISIS,” he told me.

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  • Chris Christie Rises and Donald Trump Endures in New Hampshire, Poll Says

    “People keep looking for a decline in his numbers after things that he says and there’s been no evidence that he has crossed the line that his own voters have drawn, if they have drawn a line,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey.

    Mr. Christie has been dedicating significant time to New Hampshire and it has been paying off in endorsements and a stronger performance in the polls. However, his ascendance complicates matters for the more experienced candidates who are trying to topple Mr. Trump by further fracturing their support. Mr. Rubio is the most popular second choice, suggesting that he stands to benefit once the field starts to consolidate.

    “The field of second-tier candidates has been pretty unsettled,” Mr. Koczela said, noting that Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina have collapsed in the state, while Jeb Bush and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio remain stuck in place.

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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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  • Access to MBTA influences where millennials work, live

    Access to public transit is hugely important to young people in and around Boston as they decide where to live, according to a survey from MassINC Polling Group and the Urban Land Institute of Boston.


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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.

  • English, preschool should be focus of education in Gateway Cities

    Support for early education and English language learners should be policy priorities for struggling regional hubs like New Bedford, according to a new report on Gateway Cities.

    The report, released by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC)’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, was authored by Mayors Kimberley Driscoll of Salem and Lisa Wong of Fitchburg and based on a year-long study of other former industrial cities’ educational needs.

    Wong said the purpose of the report is to underscore the unique needs of Gateway Cities and to help lobby the state and federal government to fund education programs to help revitalize them. Read more…

  • Gateway Cities target education

    The state’s Gateway Cities are banding together to try to improve education in their areas, a move they hope will lead to economic revitalization.

    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. The group is releasing a report today about the need for more access to high-quality preschool and new approaches in high school.

    Gateway Cities, a group of 26 cities identified by law that includes Fitchburg, Leominster and Worcester, are home to a third of the state’s residents under 5 years old and half of all high-need students, Ms. Wong said in a press release.Read more…

  • Report highlights need for students in gateway cities to excel

    A “grassroots” effort to improve educational opportunities and skills training for students in the state’s 26 “gateway cities” is underway.

    The report, the Gateway Cities’ Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems, or the “Vision” for short, calls for increased access to high-quality pre-kindergarten education and academic development in high school, said Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, who co-chaired the initiative.

    She, along with Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, who joins Wong as co-chairwoman of the initiative, unveiled the report to news reporters during a phone conference on Tuesday. Read more…

  • Gateway Cities share vision of improved education, community partnerships

    In order for cities such as Worcester, Fitchburg and Leominster to churn out citizens that are prepared to enter the workforce and strengthen the middle class, they first must create a way to provide a better education in a nurturing and stable environment.

    To this end, officials from each of those cities, along with those from more than a dozen other urban communities, spent more than one year preparing a multi-tiered plan, complete with proposals and policy changes, in order to reach their goal.

    On Tuesday, Gateway City mayors and members of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), a non-partisan think tank, unveiled “Gateway Cities Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems,” a 60-page report focused on strategic ways to better prepare children for careers as adults. Read more…

  • Urban centers strive to prepare students for 21st Century jobs under newly released vision

    A group of mayors and education leaders from the state’s Gateway Cities, such as Springfield and Holyoke, are calling for expanded efforts to help prepare students for 21st century jobs.

    The local leaders, in collaboration with a not-for-profit think tank, MassINC, unveiled their vision Tuesday that includes: expanding access to high-quality, pre-kindergarten education and creating stronger partnerships with local employers and colleges.

    In addition, the report calls for increasing the number of school-based health centers to help students with “social and emotional growth,” increasing funds for after-school enrichment programs, increasing learning time in the early grades, and expanding summer-enrichment efforts among other endeavors. (Read more…)

  • Lowell organization named Gateway Cities innovator

    A Lowell organization and Fitchburg community leader were honored at the Gateway Cities Innovator Awards for their work to improve and redevelop neighborhoods and stimulate entrepreneurship among residents.

    The Gateway City Innovative Institute, an organization created by the think tank MassINC, celebrated its first anniversary at a luncheon Tuesday by awarding the Merrimack Valley Sandbox and Marc Dohan, executive director of Twin Cities Community Development Corporation.

    Lowell, Lawrence, Fitchburg and Leominster are among 26 Gateway Cities across state, which are cities with populations between 35,000 and 250,000. Read more…

  • O’Connell Companies of Holyoke, Jay Minkarah of DevelopSpringfield, Armando Feliciano of Springfield Redevelopment Authority honored by MassINC Gateway Cities

    MassINC, together with leaders from the 26 Gateway Cities, will celebrate the innovative spirit of Massachusetts’ historic Gateway Cities by honoring five individuals and two organizations that have had a transformative impact on their communities, according to a news release.

    Local honorees are the O’Connell Companies of Holyoke; Armando Feliciano, of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority; and Jay Minkarah, of DevelopSpringfield.

    Feliciano is a longtime Springfield community leader and chairman of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority. After the 2011 tornado destroyed Feliciano’s home, he strove not only to rebuild his own property, but also to foster a collaborative partnership between the SRA and DevelopSpringfield, a newly formed public-private economic development organization. As the first CEO of DevelopSpringfield, Minkarah has devoted enormous energy to this joint effort. The opportunity their collaboration has produced is embodied in the Rebuild Springfield Plan – an ambitious, forward-thinking blueprint for the city’s future that the SRA and DevelopSpringfield are now working together to implement. (Read more…)

  • Gateway Cities bill would expand funding

    The Standard Times – Gateway Cities bill would expand funding

    A bill aimed at creating new benefits for the state’s post-industrial Gateway Cities, including a $125 million fund to stimulate residential construction, has drawn the support of mayors and a half-dozen state legislators even as critics contend that the measure unnecessarily locks smaller communities out of such funds.

    The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, a research center housed within nonprofit organization MassINC that looks to tackle problems faced by post-industrial communities, recently told the state Legislature that the Massachusetts economy as a whole has been “underperforming for some time.”

  • The two David Kochs

    The Boston Globe – The two David Kochs

    THIS IS a tale of two Kochs — the one who weeps for lab researchers in need of day care, but not for Americans in need of health care.

    In Commonwealth Magazine, Bruce Mohl described the recent spate of Koch-related headlines as a case of “pariah and patron.”

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