Criminal Justice and Reentry

[ index ]

Previous Issue Brief

Governor Patrick    FY 2015 Budget Recommendation:
    Key Initiatives

    Deval L. Patrick, Governor

In his FY 2015 budget, Governor Patrick is unveiling a package of sustainable, cost-effective criminal justice reforms that will dramatically improve inmates’ reentry into their communities, increase opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals and enhance public safety. This multifaceted initiative will employ a system of evidence-based reentry programming for the Department of Correction (DOC) that includes a state-to-county facility step-down program. The initiative will also include appropriate addiction treatment in the least restrictive environment to all individuals who are involuntarily committed to state custody due to their substance use disorder. The Governor’s criminal justice reforms will also address the lack of post-release supervision for a targeted group of high-impact inmates (parole-eligible inmates serving time for homicide) and reduce the intergenerational violence that frequently follows their discharge from custody.

Promoting Successful Reentry

Governor Patrick’s reentry plan improves public safety by preparing an inmate for release to the community and decreasing the likelihood of repeat criminal activity. Currently, the DOC classification system does not facilitate the movement of inmates from higher-security to lower-security custody categories and thereby constricts the number of inmates eligible to participate in programs that may reduce their likelihood of re-offending upon release. A significant number of inmates are over-classified in medium security, where there is limited access to inmate programs that prepare them to receive a positive parole decision when appropriate. Approximately 200 inmates will be eligible for movement from medium security to minimum security by adjusting the classification tool.

In 2014, Governor Patrick is further launching a step-down program in partnership with five Sheriffs (in Berkshire, Essex, Hampden, Hampshire and Suffolk counties), which allows select inmates to complete their sentences at county-based Houses of Corrections (HOCs) and prepares offenders for life in the community after completing their sentence. Stepping down an inmate to a county correctional facility allows the inmate to prepare for reentry closer to his/her home, allows the inmate to more easily connect to services in the community they will be living in upon release and helps reduce recidivism through more focused reentry planning. DOC has identified 300 eligible step-down candidates, who will be assessed for suitability to step-down to the HOC beds now available due to the 13% HOC population reduction.

To prepare state prison inmates to step down into county-based programs as part of an effective reentry system, state inmates need access to educational, vocational or life skill programs to successfully adjust to the behavioral and performance requirements of county-based reentry programs.  As part of this reentry proposal, DOC will substantially increase its capacity to provide evidence-based inmate programs. The Patrick Administration is creating new programming space within DOC prisons by moving administrative staff to a redeveloped public safety administration building in Milford, formerly the Massachusetts National Guard Headquarters. Through the Governor’s FY 2014-2018 Capital Investment Plan, the Patrick Administration is investing $7 M to convert administrative space to programmatic space for pre-release inmates in the hopes of better preparing inmates nearing the end of their sentence to reenter the community productively and safely. DOC will increase the number and availability of evidence-based programs, addressing the long waiting lists, improving parole rates and reducing recidivism.

In 2014, the Patrick Administration, in partnership with the Sheriffs, is also implementing a substance abuse recovery program using injectable naltrexone[1], a medication designed to help individuals recover from opioid or alcohol dependence. The program requires that post-release after-care connects the inmate to a community-based clinic to receive follow-up injections and behavioral health treatment once released in order to promote long-term recovery.

Appropriate Treatment for Civilly Committed Individuals

Current law allows for those who present a likelihood of serious harm to themselves or others due to substance abuse and addiction to be involuntarily committed by a judge to addiction treatment for a period of up to 90 days. Since 2006 there has been a 67% increase in the number of civilly committed individuals. The resulting volume has exceeded the inpatient bed capacity of the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) two dedicated civil commitment treatment facilities located in Brockton and New Bedford. By statute, committed individuals who are unable to secure a DPH bed are directed to the Bridgewater (men) or Framingham (women) prisons. Massachusetts is the only state in the country that holds civilly committed people in prison. The majority of individuals who are diverted to DOC facilities would be eligible for admission to a DPH dedicated facility if beds were available. 

DPH is better suited to provide treatment and services for this population.  In addition, when these civilly committed individuals are diverted to DOC, they occupy bed-space that could be used to move suitable medium security inmates to minimum security custody (which would make them eligible to participate in more programs and step down to county custody for reentry).

Governor Patrick therefore proposes to remove civilly committed individuals[2] from prisons, in all but the rarest of cases, by:

The Governor’s proposal includes the addition of 64 new inpatient beds in the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services Metrowest region, which currently is the only region without a detoxification program. It is expected that the addition of community services will decrease the number of persons seeking commitment through the Quincy, Brockton and Plymouth courts. Through this proposal, all civilly committed individuals will have access to the full continuum of services, which include placement in inpatient and residential services following detoxification and the provision of community-based case management services. 

Improving Post-Release Supervision

Because many inmates in DOC custody struggle to identify a stable place to live, potential employment, substance abuse treatment or other treatment and family or other community support following their incarceration, many do not seek parole, despite being eligible, or are denied when they do apply.  Those who do not seek parole and subsequently wrap up their sentences and are released are at greater risk to re-offend because they are not subject to post-release parole or probation supervision.

The Patrick Administration is creating a community-based, trauma-informed parole preparation program which targets parole-eligible inmates serving time for homicide using a restorative justice model to reduce intergenerational violence, or violence that is passed from parent to child or sibling to sibling. A parole-focused program that adds restorative justice to the creation of a Home/Work Plan (a plan for where a parolee will live and work following incarceration) will strengthen that plan significantly and greatly increase the chances that a parolee will successfully complete parole.

Patrick Administration Criminal Justice Accomplishments

Since taking office in 2007, Governor Patrick has proposed and implemented a comprehensive package of reforms aimed at dramatically improving the Commonwealth’s criminal justice continuum, from sentencing to incarceration to reentry.

Title: Inmate Population REduction - Description: This shows the nexus of how the enactment of sentencing reform precipitated a reduction in the inmate popualation.

Sentencing Reform – Governor Patrick signed legislation to toughen criminal sentences for repeat violent offenders while reducing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes and increasing the ability of inmates to earn “good time” for inmate program participation. This smarter approach improves public safety by focusing limited public dollars and prison cells on habitual violent offenders. Over the past two years, DOC’s inmate population has decreased by 7%, and the Sheriff’s House of Correction (HOC) population has decreased by 13%[3]. The decrease in the number of inmates in state care and custody will save almost $8 M in FY 2015 through reduced food, healthcare and bed-space costs. In the long run, sentencing reform will help contain inmate population growth and reduce need for future construction of 10,000 new prison bed-spaces, which would have cost between $1.3 B and $2.3 B to build and $3 B in operating costs over 30 years.

Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Reform – Recognizing the importance of implementing tough but smart anti-crime measures, the Patrick Administration implemented comprehensive CORI reform legislation (enacted in 2010) to enhance employment and economic opportunities for citizens with criminal records and expand access to criminal record information for prospective employers and housing providers on an internet-based system. Increasing employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals can reduce their rate of recidivism.

Parole Board Reform – To increase accountability, Governor Patrick signed legislation to ensure that the Parole Board was properly equipped with relevant expertise, training and a risk needs assessment tool to determine eligibility for parole. Beginning in 2011, the Parole Board created a number of evidence-based policies and practices designed to increase transparency about the Board’s decisions and provide parole officers and Parole Board members with training and other tools to better facilitate appropriate inmate parole.

Criminal Justice Commission – Established in the FY 2012 budget, the commission is currently reviewing over 29 recommendations to improve reentry, reduce overcrowding and strengthen post-release supervision. The Criminal Justice Commission has also engaged the Pew Center for the States and the MacArthur Foundation to implement its cutting-edge cost-benefit analysis model called “Results First” to better inform Massachusetts criminal justice policies. The goals of the analysis are to:

To complete this analysis, researchers across state government have worked together to complete the most comprehensive recidivism analysis to date, and analysts are working to identify the marginal costs of every activity of the criminal justice system. These data sets will assist policy makers in crafting effective solutions to further reduce crime and recidivism going forward based on science and data.

[1] The only injectable naltrexone currently on the market is Vivitrol.

[2] This proposal does not address individuals who are dually committed, meaning that they are also held pursuant to an order of a criminal court, because they cannot be transferred to DPH custody.

[3] Department of Correction (2013 and 2011). Weekly Count Sheet 12/30/13 and Weekly Count Sheet 12/26/2011.

Prepared by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance ·
For more information email: (617) 727-2040