As We’ve Been Saying, Corrections Reform Is Long Overdue

Could it be that Massachusetts is making the move from “tough on crime” to “smart on crime”?  Not quite yet, according to a recent report “Crime, Cost, and Consequences: Is It Time to Get Smart on Crime” published by Community Resources for Justice (CRJ) and MassInc.  We were pleased to read this 40 page report, produced by two institutions well-regarded for their public policy work. That’s because the report reinforces what the BBA and the organization now know as CRJ discovered during the course of a study in 1991 — that Massachusetts’ criminal justice policies are unduly harsh and fail to improve public safety. 

Punishment cannot be the primary emphasis or the only response to crime.  We need to revisit our criminal justice policies, focus on a holistic approach to punishment and take a comprehensive look at the entire criminal justice system in Massachusetts.

A few of the takeaways from the recently released report. . .

  • Over the next decade our correction policies and practices will cost the state $2 billion if nothing changes. 
  • Massachusetts spends six percent more on incarceration than on education, and low level drug offenders sentenced under mandatory minimums are responsible for a substantial portion of that cost.
  • If Massachusetts could reduce recidivism by five percent, it would save the state $150 million annually.

A few of the report’s common sense recommendations. . .

  • Place a moratorium on state and county prison expansion;
  • Empower the Sentencing Commission to revisit the state’s approach to sentencing and sanctions; and
  • Expand the use of community supervision and pre-release. 

 - Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association
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