A plan to master prison overcrowding
Report: 10,000 more prison beds needed by 2020
The Patrick administration is set to unveil a Corrections Master Plan tomorrow to deal with what is expected to be a near-crisis in the growth of the state’s inmate population – and that’s before sentencing reform working through the Legislature could exacerbate it even more with a “three strikes” bill for habitual offenders.
According to the plan’s projections, Massachusetts will need at least 10,000 more beds over current capacity in both state prisons and county jails by 2020 to house inmates without any change in policies or sentence practices. More beds will be needed if the roughly 1,000 out-of-state federal inmates being held at various facilities are not removed from the system.
The report, a collaborative effort between the Division of Capital Asset Management and corrections and public safety officials, says simply building more prisons is not a solution. “Building our way out of our challenges is not an option,” Carole Cornelison, commissioner of the Division of Capital Asset Management, wrote in the plan’s cover letter. “Continued budgetary constraints require wise decision-making to do ‘more with less’ but also present the challenge to seek opportunities to better fulfill our mission.”
In addition to policy changes to reduce recidivism and encourage early release, the plan calls for:
- Grouping the state’s 13 sheriff offices into four regions to maximize space and reduce redundancy in program offerings;
- Creating units that could address the needs of several “special needs” populations including women, those with mental disabilities, and those with medical needs exceeding routine care. The latter group includes inmates with a long-term illness as well as an increasingly older prison population that requires assisted-living accommodations;
- Sending more inmates to pre-release or community-based programs.