Baker, State Leaders Release Report on Criminal Justice Reform in MA
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Read the Report Below
In Massachusetts, two-thirds of those released from Houses of Correction and more than half of those released from the Department of Correction recidivate within three years.
“Massachusetts should be proud that our prison population has declined by 1,300 inmates over the last two years, leaving us with one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country. However, we must focus on addressing recidivism by providing opportunities for certain prisoners who are willing to help themselves and participate in programs like workforce skills training opportunities that put them on the path to being productive members of society once their sentence is served,” said Baker.
To help eliminate recidivism, a bipartisan, inter-branch steering committee and working group were established to support this work. Between January 2016 and January 2017, the 25-member working group met six times, and its five-member steering committee met seven times to review analysis conducted by the CSG Justice Center and discuss policy options.
Policy options outlined in the CSG Justice Center’s report reflect a three-pronged strategy including legislative, administrative and budgetary actions that each branch of government will take to help reduce recidivism within the Commonwealth.
Actions include a commitment to increased funding for substance use and work training programming, enhancing post-release supervision, and expanding access to earned good time credits for completing recidivism-reduction programs during incarceration.
“The steering committee, co-chairs, and working group used their deep experience and unique perspectives to work with the CSG Justice Center to produce this informative report. We look forward to continuing our exchange of ideas with all stakeholders and implementing important reforms on criminal justice,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.
Starting the Process
Across the country, 26 other states have used the justice reinvestment approach.
Massachusetts has the second-lowest incarceration rate in the nation, and state leaders now wish to address the challenge of recidivism in their state’s criminal justice system. People with prior convictions were responsible for three-quarters of new sentences in 2013. Two-thirds of people leaving Houses of Correction (HOCs) and more than half of those leaving Department of Correction (DOC) facilities in 2011 were rearraigned within three years of their release.
To address the challenge of recidivism, Massachusetts leaders requested and received support from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance during the summer of 2015 to use a data-driven justice reinvestment approach to study the state’s criminal justice system, with intensive technical assistance from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. A bipartisan, interbranch steering committee and working group were established to support this work.
The working group and steering committee—which included stakeholders from all three branches of government—worked with CSG Justice Center staff to review analyses and develop policy options that will (1) better align probation and parole supervision with best practices to reduce recidivism; (2) improve access to treatment for people in the criminal justice system who have serious behavioral health needs and are also at a high risk of reoffending; (3) make the parole release process more efficient; and (4) reduce the DOC population and increase the number of people who receive post-release supervision.
With initial investments, full and effective policy implementation, and sustained funding and support, these policy options can help the state to reduce overall recidivism by up to 15 percent over the next six years, by deterring criminal activity and helping more than 1,500 people avoid recidivating, including approximately 660 people who would not return to incarceration in HOCs or DOC facilities.
In February 2017, Steering Committee members introduced a consensus bill containing components of the justice reinvestment policy framework and pledged to pursue administrative policy to implement additional policy options.
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