gov. deval patrick wants to close two prisons this year to save money, but the Legislature isn’t enthusiastic about the idea, partly because of fears about violence stemming from cramming too many prisoners into tight spaces.
According to 2009 data from the US Department of Justice, Massachusetts has one of the 10 most overcrowded prison systems in the country. The system is operating at 140 percent of its capacity, with 11,300 inmates living in prisons originally designed to hold just under 8,000.
North Carolina has the most overcrowded prisons in the country, with facilities operating at 397 percent of planned design capacity. Mississippi’s prisons are the least crowded, with just 50 percent of prison beds in use.
Patrick administration officials have not publicly identified the prisons targeted for closure, but Terrel Harris, the spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, says officials are confident they can accommodate more inmates at fewer facilities without creating safety or security problems.Harris says the Patrick administration is also eyeing sentencing reform so fewer nonviolent criminals end up in prison in the first place.
“We have proposed several reforms to the state’s criminal justice system and sentencing laws that will help address issues like overcrowding in our prisons,” Harris says.