In the fall of 2003 Governor Mitt Romney and Edward Flynn, Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety, announced the formation of two separate entities to examine the Department of Correction ("The Department"). First, on September 4, 2003, the Governor formed a special panel to investigate the circumstances and conditions surrounding the death of a high profile inmate, former priest John Geoghan. Another inmate was later indicted for his murder. During the early part of this investigation, it became clear that there was a need for a more expansive review of the system, including the Department's policies and procedures.

As a result, on October 17, 2003, Governor Romney established the Governor's Commission on Corrections Reform (the "Commission") chaired by former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. The mandate of this "Blue Ribbon" Commission was to conduct a comprehensive review of the Department of Correction, including issues related to governance, operational systems, programs, reentry, and budget. The Commission consisted of 15 current and former corrections officials, legislators, community leaders, and criminal justice experts. The Commissioners, who met for an eight-month period on a volunteer basis, divided into three working groups: (1) governance; (2) operations; and (3) security, programs, and reintegration. The governance working group focused on mission, management systems and structure, and labor relations. The operations working group focused on classification, inmate discipline, investigations, and inmate grievances. The security, programs, and reintegration working group focused on issues surrounding prisoner reentry. Each working group considered relevant budget items and fiscal issues.

On June 30, 2004 the Commission issued its final report entitled: Strengthening Public Safety, Increasing Accountability and Instituting Fiscal Discipline in the Department of Correction. The report contains 18 major recommendations for action and sets forth a plan for enhancing public safety by reducing the rate of re-offense by returning inmates. The recommendations involve improving managerial capacity and quality; enhancing accountability for managers, staff, and inmates; adopting a comprehensive reentry focus; ensuring fairness and consistency in policies and practices; and instituting fiscal discipline.

Listed below are the major recommendations from the Commission's report. For a more detailed discussion of the Commissions findings and recommendations, please see the full report here pdf format of Governor's Commission on Correction Reform

Leadership and Accountability

Major Recommendations:

1. The Department should revise its mission to include reducing the rate of re-offense by inmates released into the community.

2. The Department should adopt a performance management and accountability system to enhance agency performance, improve the culture, and utilize budget resources more effectively.

3. The Department's management capacity should be strengthened through the collective bargaining process and revisions to the internal rank structure.

4. There should be an external advisory board on corrections to monitor and oversee the Department. The board should work cooperatively with the Commissioner to develop concrete goals for the future of the Department.

Fiscal Management

Major Recommendations:

5. The Department should take responsibility for bringing down staffing costs and reducing worker absenteeism.

6. The Department's budget should be more closely aligned with its mission and priorities. This will enhance public safety in a fiscally responsible manner.

Public Safety and Inmate Reentry

Major Recommendations:

7. The Commonwealth must view reducing the rate of re-offense by returning inmates as one of its highest public safety priorities.

8. The Department should adopt a comprehensive reentry strategy including risk assessment, proven programs, "step-down" and supervised release.

9. The Department should hold inmates more accountable for participation in productive activities designed to reduce the likelihood that they will re-offend.

10. The Commonwealth and the Department should revise sentencing laws and DOC policies that create barriers to appropriate classification, programming, and "step-down."

11. The Commonwealth should establish a presumption that DOC inmates who are released are subject to ongoing monitoring and supervision.

12. There should be a dedicated external review of inmate health and mental health services.

13. There should be a dedicated external review of issues pertaining to female offenders in the Department's custody.

Fair and Consistent Policies and Practices

Major Recommendations:

14. The Department should ensure that policies and procedures, including those related to inmate classification, discipline, and grievances, are transparent, well-communicated, have specified appeals processes, and are implemented by staff who are appropriately selected, trained and supervised.

15. The Department should ensure that policies and procedures are properly implemented through oversight and accountability systems, including an independent investigative authority, data management, and unit management.

16. The Department should conduct a system-wide facility review to ensure that its physical plant is consistent with the security needs of the staff and the inmate population, and the Department's mission.

17. The Department should adequately protect and care for inmates in protective custody.

18. The Department should increase the linguistic diversity and cultural competence of its workforce.