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Priorities and Public Safety - Reentry and the Rising Costs of our Correction System, Boston Foundation, 2009

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Priorities and Public Safety:
Reentry and the Rising Costs of our Corrections System

Prepared by
The Crime and Justice Institute
A Division of Community Resources for Justice
The Boston Foundation

About the Boston Foundation
The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with assets of almost $700 million. In Fiscal Year 2009, the Foundation and its donors made
$86 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of $72 million. The Foundation is made up of
some 900 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for
special purposes. The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and
sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges. For more
information about the Boston Foundation, visit or call 617-338-1700.

About the Crime and Justice Institute
The Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) at Community Resources for Justice provides nonpartisan consulting, policy
analysis, and research services to improve public safety in communities throughout the country. CJI develops and
promotes evidence based practices which inform practitioners and policymakers, including corrections officials,
police, courts, and political and community leaders to assist them in making criminal and juvenile justice systems
more efficient and cost-effective to promote accountability for achieving better results. For more information about
CJI, visit or call 617-262-8054.

About the Task Force on CORI Employer Guidelines
Community Resources for Justice, Inc. believes that society wins when all people are given the support and tools
to lead responsible, productive, and dignified lives. Whether transitioning inmates back into mainstream society,
diverting troubled youth away from crime and towards productive and fulfilling lives, or providing those with
developmental disabilities with a chance to grow and flourish in the community, Community Resources for
Justice, Inc. welcomes and fosters change. Guided by excellence, creativity, and compassion, CRJ has strengthened individuals, families, and communities

for over 100 years. For more information about CRJ, visit or call 617-262-8054.

UNDERSTANDING BOSTON is a series of forums, educational events, and research sponsored by the Boston Foundation to
provide information and insight into issues affecting Boston, its neighborhoods, and the region. By working in
collaboration with a wide range of partners, the Boston Foundation provides opportunities for people to come together
to explore challenges facing our constantly changing community to develop an informed civic agenda. Visit to learn more about Understanding Boston and the Boston Foundation.

© 2009 by The Boston Foundation. All rights reserved.

Priorities and Public Safety:
Reentry and the Rising Costs of our Corrections System

Len Engel, Senior Policy Analyst, Crime and Justice Institute
Joshua Atkisson, Junior Associate, Crime and Justice Institute
James Davitt Rooney, Director of Public Affairs, The Boston Foundation
Barbara Hindley, Senior Editor, The Boston Foundation
Project Coordinators:
Len Engel, Senior Policy Analyst, Crime and Justice Institute
Mary Jo Meisner, Vice President of Communications, Community Relations,
The Boston Foundation
James Davitt Rooney, Director of Public Affairs, The Boston Foundation
Joshua Atkisson, Junior Associate, Crime and Justice Institute
Prepared for the Boston Foundation


Staff members of the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) and its parent company, Community
Resources for Justice (CRJ) have, contributed to this document in many ways. The expertise and
experience of John Larivee, CRJ’s Chief Executive Officer, and each of CRJ’s divisions: Social
Justice Services; Community Strategies and CJI provided a unique perspective and guidance on
the various facets of the corrections system as this project progressed.
The project has also benefited from numerous discussions and interactions over the years with
staff and officials throughout the state and county corrections systems. The departments and
their staff continue to be dedicated to the mission of protecting the public and improving
correctional outcomes despite significant pressures of the day-to-day job and those created by the
dramatic budget crisis.
The thoughtful, timely and instructive advice and information from members of Massachusetts
criminal justice agencies were invaluable to this report.
 Massachusetts Parole Board
o Don Giancioppo, Executive Director
o Stephanie Geary, Research Analyst
 Massachusetts Department of Correction
o Rhiana Kohl, Executive Director, Strategic Planning and Research
o Christopher Mitchell, Director of Reentry and Program Services
 Essex County Sheriff’s Department
o James Petrosino, Deputy Superintendent
 Hampden County Sheriff’s Department
o Jay Ashe, Superintendent
o Martha Lyman, Research Director
 Massachusetts Sentencing Commission
o Linda Holt, Research Director
 Office of the Commissioner of Probation
o Laura Lempicki, Research Manager
This report was greatly supported by CJI’s Research Assistant Julie Finn whose creativity and
timely involvement was invaluable.
Most importantly, this project would not have been possible without the support, advice and
direction of the Boston Foundation. Mary Jo Meisner, Jim Rooney, and Jill Lacey Griffin
provided critical guidance in the framing and focus of this report, following up on earlier
collaborations between the Boston Foundation and CJI. The collaboration of the Boston
Foundation and the Crime and Justice Institute has helped illuminate complex policy issues such
as Criminal Offender Records Information reform as well as opportunities for significant
improvement. The Boston Foundation’s continued leadership on these issues has triggered
public discussions and policy advances for many of society’s more difficult issues.


Dear Friends,
The last year has brought economic turbulence unprecedented in most of our lifetimes, with ripple effects
across both public and private sectors. Government in particular has been hard hit by declining revenues
and an increased demand for services, amidst counter-intuitive increases in some seemingly endlessly
rising costs like health care. States across the nation are grappling with budget deficits and are forced to
reinvent the way they do business or significantly pare back on services. At the beginning of this crisis,
many observed – with a glimmer of hope– that challenging times like this can at least provide an opening
for innovative system reform for which there is often little appetite during headier times. I suggest that
while we never invite tough times, there can be a “utility of trouble” that can lead complex organizations
like state government to refine its mission and improve its performance.
This report, Priorities and Public Safety: Reentry and the Rising Costs of our Corrections System,
prepared by the Crime and Justice Institute for the Boston Foundation as part of our Understanding
Boston series, shows that several of our competitor states are taking advantage of the utility of trouble by
reinventing their corrections systems in more innovative ways informed by data and best practices. This
report finds that several states are enacting major policy changes to reduce the practice of incarceration
and lower the cost of corrections. The result has been not only more cost-effective government, but also,
even more importantly, improved public safety.
In the 1990s, Massachusetts and other states jumped on a “get tough on crime” bandwagon that did not
necessarily lead to improved outcomes. Corrections budgets nationally and locally have exploded over the
past twenty years at the expense of other investments. For example, this report shows that over the past
ten years our major corrections budgets enjoyed double digit growth while our Higher Education budget
was cut by 7.5%. This disparity might be justified if we could point to a greater need or improved
outcomes as a result of that disproportionate investment in corrections. But during that period the prison
population remained constant as did most recidivism indicators.
This report offers a roadmap for how Massachusetts might adopt more cost-effective – and more
performance-effective – approaches to corrections amidst the current budget crisis.
This roadmap represents the latest partnership between the Boston Foundation and the Crime and Justice
Institute, building on our recent reports, task force, and advocacy around CORI reform. As with our
efforts around CORI, we seek to frame our examination of the state’s corrections systems and
opportunities to promote more innovative approaches and cost-effectiveness not only as a public safety
but also an economic competitiveness concern. As with our shared work on CORI reform, we expect this
issue to be of interest to a wide range of business, civic, and other stakeholders beyond those specializing
in corrections, as our public safety systems – and our fiscal health as a Commonwealth – have a direct
impact on us all. I invite you to read this report and join with us in considering the recommendations put
Paul S. Grogan
President and CEO, The Boston Foundation



Executive Summary
As the national economic crisis continues to ripple across state governments, with most states
moving to deeply cut vital services, there is a renewed interest in directing resources toward
those practices and policies that are most effective and efficient. State budget-writers are
increasingly examining the performance of departments, agencies, vendors, individuals and
services to determine which are producing outcomes that deserve continued funding and which
are not. The fact that corrections agencies are being scrutinized indicates the seriousness of the
budget crisis.
Historically, corrections agencies have been able to avoid deep budget cuts in bad economic
times and obtain significant budget increases in normal economic periods. As a result,
corrections budgets nationally have increased nearly 300 percent over the past 20 years. The
current economic crisis, though, has altered this trend and forced many states to abandon the
practices and policies that triggered prison expansion and mounting corrections budgets.
As in other states, Massachusetts criminal justice budgets have risen dramatically. Over the past
10 years corrections budgets have grown at a faster rate than the budgets of almost any other
state service including Public Health, Higher Education and Local Aid. Adjusted for inflation:*
 The Department of Correction budget has increased more than 12%;
 The County Sheriffs’ budget (in aggregate) has increased more than 20%; and
 The Probation budget has increased more than 160%.
On the other hand, over the same period:
 The Public Health budget has decreased 3 percent;
 The Higher Education budget has decreased 7.5%: and
 The Local Aid budget has decreased nearly 1%.
Massachusetts is in the midst of a serious budget crisis due to declining revenues, leading
government officials to make deep cuts to services that Massachusetts normally takes pride in
providing. Budgets for vital state services will receive significantly fewer resources than in
previous years, leading to fewer services and more costs to individual users and municipalities.
For FY10:
 The Higher Education budget is reduced by 17%;
 Public Health is reduced by 13%; and
 Local Aid is reduced by 28%.
Yet, the budget crisis has not led to similar reductions in the corrections budgets:
 The Department of Correction budget was reduced by just 1.9%;
 The County Sheriffs budget was reduced by 8%;
 The Probation Department was reduced by 8%; and
 The Parole Board was reduced by less than 2.5%.
Rising corrections budgets can often be justified if prison and jail populations increase
significantly or if public safety outcomes (such as reduced recidivism rates) improve. Yet,


See Appendix A for full budget information and see Appendix B for references and citations for budget data. This
data does not reflect pending “9c” cuts to the FY10 budget.


neither of these circumstances appears to be the case in Massachusetts. Over the 10-year period
from 1998 to 2008, corrections budgets experienced disproportionate growth while corrections
populations largely remained constant, rising less then 5 percent overall.
Public safety outcomes are more difficult to measure because Massachusetts corrections agencies
have no uniform method of data collection and information sharing. However key indicators,
such as recidivism reduction and the number of parole revocations and probation surrenders that
indicate failure rates of released ex-offenders, show little change over the same 10-year period.
The Commonwealth’s economic circumstances are similar to virtually every other state in the
country. But in many of these states, growing corrections budgets have led to a closer
examination of the return on investment in a growing corrections infrastructure as well as the
policies triggering this growth.
Several states have taken a decidedly different approach than Massachusetts. They are making
major policy shifts, based on research and outcomes from other states, to shrink the cost of
corrections, reduce the use of incarceration for lower-risk offenders and improve public safety.
The states that already have had initiatives in place have reduced their prison populations,
focused resources on those most likely to re-offend and saved millions of dollars – helping to
offset budgetary impacts on other state services. Michigan for example, has closed 13
corrections facilities and saved $500 million since it began a corrections reform initiative in
2003. It has also continued to see reduced levels of re-offending.
Massachusetts cannot expect to take the budgetary steps that a state like Michigan has taken this
year, but it must begin, based on models that have proven to reduce recidivism and improve
public safety, to build a system that produces results. Possible solutions include:

Make the reduction of recidivism the collective goal of the criminal justice system.
Establish uniform data collection and information sharing.
Science should guide policy-making.
Examine laws and practices that restrict access to supervised reentry programs in the
community for non-violent individuals.
Collaborate with multiple stakeholders in the communities to which prisoners return and
use the existing community capacity to improve reentry outcomes and reduce the risk of
Reconsider resource allocations that direct significant resources to prison and jail
infrastructure and proportionally far fewer resources to programs and services that are
proven to reduce recidivism.
Direct corrections resources to managing and preparing higher-risk prisoners for
successful transition into the community.

The Commonwealth can begin to construct a more efficient and effective corrections system that
will lead to lower prison and jail populations, a less expensive corrections system and improved
public safety outcomes with fewer ex-prisoners returning to crime. The budget crisis presents a
rare opportunity to look closely at our corrections system and ensure that the public’s
considerable investment is achieving results.


“Safety at any price”
For decades, this has been the motto guiding the criminal justice system. Recognizing the
importance of public safety to individuals and its influence on other areas of civil society,
government officials have traditionally been willing to create policies that protect the public and
others that only have the veneer of safety. Such policies are often expensive and budgets are
increased to accommodate growing corrections populations.
Yet, in the current economic climate, the cost of corrections and, likewise, the policies that have
led to high corrections populations are being closely examined. The momentum behind this
fiscal analysis has led many states to alter their approach to policies that influence corrections
budgets as well as examine the outcomes expected from a criminal justice system. Across the
country, states are reconsidering stringent sentencing laws, limitations on community
supervision, the length of incarceration and the necessity of new prison construction to address
overcrowded conditions.
Along with the rest of the country, Massachusetts is in the midst of an economic crisis that
necessitates cuts to vital state services and increased taxes to limit the impact of the cuts.
Because budgets for corrections departments have grown at a faster rate than just about any other
department in the state, an examination of the Massachusetts corrections system is appropriate to
understand whether taxpayer money is being spent effectively.
The criminal justice system in Massachusetts is a fairly complex structure with several systems
operating within it. The corrections departments, the court system, and law enforcement
agencies all make up the criminal justice system. This report focuses on the corrections
departments. These agencies – the Department of Correction and the Sheriffs Departments,
which manage offenders in corrections facilities, and the Probation Department and Parole
Board, which manage and supervise offenders in the community – have a large responsibility to
reduce an offender’s threat to re-offend and to protect the public from dangerous offenders.
These twin responsibilities are often in conflict because of statutory limitations and budget
restrictions. Restrictive sentencing and parole laws limit the ability of corrections agencies to
prepare and release appropriate offenders to the community. Because an overwhelming
percentage of corrections resources is directed to infrastructure – expensive buildings and
thousands of state and county employees – it is very difficult for corrections officials to shift
resources to programs and services that reduce recidivism and improve public safety. In a
budget crisis, these programs are cut even further which the research shows adversely impacts
public safety with unprepared offenders returning to the community.
The circumstances in the corrections agencies and the state’s budget crisis compelled the Boston
Foundation and the Crime and Justice Institute, a division of Community Resources for Justice,
to examine the corrections system and the recent trends in policies that are affected by growing
corrections spending. Earlier Boston Foundation and Crime and Justice Institute collaborations
examined the Criminal Offender Record Information system. This work provided clarity and
momentum behind efforts to reform the use of, access to and understanding of criminal records
and the broader policy implications of economic and workforce development and public safety.
The current examination has relied on several sources of information, most of them available to


the public, as well as discussions and documents from various stakeholders in state and local
government associated with either corrections or the budget and legislative processes.
The findings in this report suggest that the massive growth in corrections spending over the past
10 years has not been driven by equal growth in the corrections population or in improved public
safety outcomes. The questions raised by these findings revolve around the state’s willingness to
pay nearly any amount for criminal justice policies currently in place without evidence of better
Is the public willing to accept significant cuts to other state and local services while corrections
agencies receive minimal budget reductions? As important: should the actions of other states to
reform similarly expensive criminal justice policies inform Massachusetts lawmakers in
reconsidering past policies and the direction of its criminal justice system?


The State of Corrections in Massachusetts
In 2009, Massachusetts spent more than $1.2 billion1 on corrections including prisons, jails,
probation and parole. This was more than any other state service budget except Local Aid ($1.3
billion) and the Department of Education ($4.5 billion). Massachusetts spent more incarcerating
people than it did on the budgets for Higher Education, the Department of Public Health and the
Department of Social Services.
The corrections budgets are the result of a decade-long expansion and they significantly exceed
the growth rates of nearly all other state services. A review of the Fiscal Year 19982 and Fiscal
Year 20083 state budgets indicate an unusually vigorous commitment to a growing corrections
infrastructure that has few equals in other areas of state government. The questions then arise:
what has driven these budget increases, and are we safer because of them?
Percent Change; FY98 & FY08 MA State Budgets






Educ. K-12,


DPH, Local Aid,




Higher Ed.


*Data in this graph has not been adjusted for inflation. See graph on next page for inflation-adjusted data.


Percent Change; FY98 & FY08 MA State Budgets








Education K-12,






Local Aid,



Higher Ed.,

*Data in this graph has been adjusted for inflation.4

Factors causing increased corrections budgets
The past decade in Massachusetts shows large budget increases for prisons and jails and fairly
minimal budget increases for most other vital services. Given these increases, it is reasonable to
assume that the increased budgets were triggered by large increases in prison and jail populations
or that the state is receiving significant public safety benefits in the form of reduced recidivism,
fewer crimes and fewer victims.
Did a sudden rise in the prison and jail population account for the increased corrections budget?
Budget increases are often driven by increases in the prison population. A logical assumption
might be that growth in the Massachusetts corrections budgets was driven by an equivalent
increase in the corrections population. A review of historic corrections population trends does
not support this connection. The period of significant population growth occurred primarily
between 1980 and the mid-1990s when the population in the Department of Correction†
soared nearly 300 percent from 2,8675 to 10,6946 and the population in the sheriffs’ departments‡
increased from 2,6547 to 11,1528. However, in the 10-year period between 1998 and 2008 when
corrections budgets grew substantially both the prison and jail populations have remained
relatively static, rising only about five percent in the 10-year period.


The Department of Correction incarcerates prisoners serving sentences greater than 2 ½ years.
The Sheriffs Departments incarcerate, in Houses of Correction, prisoners serving sentences up to 2 ½ years in


Massachusetts Inmate Growth: Prison System













Number of Inmates

The growth in the corrections budget does not appear to have been a response to overcrowding in
the corrections system. Overcrowding has continued to be a problem for both county jails and
the state prison system. Data9 indicate that in 1990 the population in the prisons was 60% above
capacity and county jails were 50% above capacity. In 1998, the prisons were 38% above
capacity and the jails were 50% above capacity. And in 2008, the prisons were 44% above
capacity and the jails were 61% above capacity. These figures indicate that overcrowding has
been an unsolved problem in the corrections system for nearly 20 years despite the size of the
corrections budgets and the fluctuation of the incarcerated population.
Community corrections agencies have experienced almost no growth in the supervised
population. In fact, the parole caseload has declined over the 10-year period and the Probation
Department’s risk/needs caseload10 has also declined although the total probation population
increased due to a caseload transfer from the district court. A comparison of the 1998 and 2008
corrections populations shows:
 The incarcerated population in the Department of Correction increased about 5% from
10,915 to 11,400.11
 The combined incarcerated population in the Sheriffs’ Departments increased about 11%
12,531 to 13,965.12
 The parole population actually decreased about 5% from 8,326 to 7,893.13
 The FY1999 probation population decreased for probationers on risk/needs supervision
nearly 14% from 64,016 to 55,064.14 The overall probation population increased, but the
majority of the increase was an administrative probation caseload for low-risk offenders
and juveniles transferred from the district court to the Probation Department in 200415
along with an $80 million budget increase.


Percent Change; Incarcerated/Supervised Population and Budget,
1998 vs. 2008













98 vs. '08 Population Change




98 vs. '08 Budget Change*

*FY98 Figures adjusted by a 32.1% inflation rate - based on the Annual Average CPI-U for 1998 (163.0) and 2008 (215.303).
Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor
**Caseload change in 2008 does not include 80,507 cases on administrative supervision in the district court and does not
include the Probate and Family category.
**2008 budget adjusted to account for 2004 district court budget transfer of $81 million.

The growth of the incarcerated population over the past ten years has been minimal and in some
cases there has been a reduction in the supervised population. In the face of continuing budget
deficits policy makers and government officials should question whether, absent evidence of a
public safety reason for budget growth, the significant budget increases are justified.
Has more money reduced re-offenses among ex-offenders and improved public safety?
Understandably, the public and policy makers are willing to spend significant resources in order
to ensure the safety of residents. Protecting the public is a priority of government, whether local,
state or federal. High crime rates affect all aspects of public and private life from health and
education to economic development. Thus, government’s role in protecting the public is bound
to have a budgetary impact.
Yet, the growth of Massachusetts corrections budgets has not been matched by corresponding
public safety outcomes. The criminal justice system has various responsibilities including
protecting the public, holding offenders responsible for their criminal acts, incapacitating those
requiring prison or jail and reducing the risk ex-offenders pose when they return to the
community. For measuring the public safety benefits of the corrections system, recognized
outcomes include the rate of recidivism16 and the number of revocations and surrenders. Thus
collecting and analyzing these data points is necessary to determine the impact of corrections


policies on public safety and whether they are successful in reducing the risk of re-offending
posed by ex-offenders.
 Department of Correction data show that the recidivism rate has fluctuated between 42
percent (1998) and 39 percent (2002).17 The DOC has no data for offenders released
after 2002.
 The Sheriffs’ Departments do not report aggregate recidivism data and only a few
sheriffs appear to track recidivism. There is insufficient data from 1998 to compare
with more recent data.
o The most recent data show that recidivism for county jail inmates averages 50
percent within 1 year of release.18
 Parole data indicate that:
o In 1998, 10 percent of the parole grants were revoked, with 793 revocations due
to either a new crime or a technical violation.19
o In 2008, 11 percent of parole grants were revoked, totaling 900 revocations.20
 Probation data indicate that:
o In 1998, there were 58,622 surrenders.21
o In 2008, there were 56,654 surrenders.22
The data show that despite the significant increases in corrections spending little has changed
with regard to the offender’s likelihood of success once released. Between 40 and 50 percent of
offenders released from correctional supervision are back in trouble again within three years.
These numbers, when available, are fairly consistent over the past 10 years. The notion of
corrections agencies ‘correcting’ behavior does not appear to have been an outcome affected by
increased spending. Under the current fiscal crisis, it is reasonable to question whether the
corrections budget growth is justified given the limited public safety improvement as illustrated
by relatively limited reentry success.
What did the corrections budgets pay for?
To a certain degree, we know what some of the budget increases supported. A 2005 report titled
Strengthening Public Safety, Increasing Accountability and Instituting Fiscal Responsibility in
the Department of Correction,23 examined the state prison system including its budget decisions.
It found that corrections budgets have very high fixed and personnel costs. “Cost increases result
primarily from the rising costs of labor, including overtime and collective bargaining. Between
1995 and 2003, staffing expenditures increased from $200 million to $312 million, a 56%
increase.”24 The staff costs increased to $363 million in the FY 2008 budget.25 The report found
that the Department of Correction had the second highest staff to inmate ratio in the country and
correctional officers were the third highest paid in the country.26
Staffing data from other corrections agencies was not available and it is difficult to determine
what the increased budgets for many of the sheriffs’ departments and the Probation Department
covered. The Parole Board, which experienced the smallest increase of the four corrections
agencies, directed budget increases to the development of eight Regional Reentry Centers during
this 10-year period. These centers provide treatment services, connections to other service
providers and basic services that help stabilize recently released inmates.
Corrections Budgets in an Economic Crisis27
Over the past year, Massachusetts, like the rest of the country, has seen its revenues plummet, its
unemployment rate rise, and the state budget deficit climb above $4 billion. In the grip of an
economic meltdown, Massachusetts lawmakers had little choice but to make many difficult and,


in some cases, devastating budget cuts in order to close the budget gap. Like most other
accounts, corrections budgets were reduced and services were cut.

The DOC budget was cut by 1.9%
The Sheriffs’ Departments’ budget (collectively) was cut by 8.8%
The Parole Board budget was cut by 2.4%
The Probation Department budget was cut by 8.3%

While corrections budgets were reduced less than 9 percent, other vital state services received
budget cuts that will mean diminished resources for cities and towns, limited services from
agencies providing mental health services, care for seniors and children living in poverty – and
higher costs to attend public colleges.

The Public Health budget was cut 13.6%
The Higher Education budget was cut 17.2% 28
The Local Aid budget was cut 28.3%29
2010 MA State Budget Cuts









Higher Ed.,




Local Aid,



Over the past several years, there has been limited attention to the financial impact of the
growing criminal justice system and the budget choices made to support corrections expansion.
Admittedly, examining such impacts during flush fiscal times attracts little interest given the
willingness of taxpayers and lawmakers to expend considerable resources for public safety. But
in difficult economic times, budget decisions that result in reductions to vital services compel a
closer examination of the fiscal circumstances and public safety outcomes of our criminal justice


The public is willing to pay for public safety and political leaders recognize this. Most troubling
though is that while tax dollars are directed to growing corrections budgets, there does not appear
to be the measurable benefits the public would expect for the investment. Rising corrections
costs might be acceptable if public safety is improved, if the corrections system is run efficiently
and transparently, and if recidivism is reduced. Growing corrections budgets would probably be
acceptable if the prison population grew substantially in response to higher crime rates. Yet,
none of these are what drove the growth of the corrections budget over the past 10 years.
The structural and political difficulties of such reductions are obvious. Because the corrections
system relies on large and expensive physical structures, real savings will not be realized until
units of a prison or jail or a whole facility are closed. Closing a prison or jail means either
reducing the flow of offenders coming into prisons and jails, reducing the amount of time they
spend locked up, or both. People want to feel safe and the political dynamics of these options are
difficult to accept, even in an economic crisis. Yet, across the country, states are looking at the
same budgetary abyss that Massachusetts is facing and taking a decidedly different approach to
corrections spending and policies affecting sentencing, early release and supervision.


The National Picture
The United States now incarcerates 2.3 million of its adult citizens in prisons and jails across the
country, far more than any other country in the world.30 Another 5 million people are being
supervised by probation or parole.31 Combined, more than 7 million people in the United States,
or one in 31 adults are under correctional supervision.32
The growth of the prison system throughout the country has been extraordinary, increasing by
700 percent between 1970 and 2005.33 In 1987, there were fewer than 600,000 people in prisons
in the United States. In 2007, there were nearly 1.6 million people in prisons with another
700,000 in local jails.34
During this period of growth,
strict sentencing laws swept
the country, prisons were
built to house the growing
number of incarcerated
individuals serving longer
sentences, and corrections
budgets rose to meet the urge
to incarcerate. Laws and
policies limiting judicial
discretion, such as three
strikes and mandatory
minimum sentences for drug
offenses, were very popular
in Congress and in state
legislatures across the country. Laws limiting or in many cases eliminating parole were equally
popular. In the mid-1990s, the Truth in Sentencing Act was passed by Congress, requiring states
to change sentencing laws so that violent offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.35
By the end of the 1990s most offenders, violent and non-violent, were serving longer periods in
This growth has caused
corrections budgets at all
levels to swell. In 1982,
corrections budgets across
the country totaled $9 billion.
By 2007, corrections budgets
had increased to $44








State General Fund Corrections Spending, 1987 - 2007

44.06 Billion

In Billions





National Prison Population, 1987 - 2007














Despite the rising cost of
10.62 Billion
corrections, the public does
not appear to be getting the
public safety benefits it
expects. Rates of recidivism
have continued to reflect widespread failure of the criminal justice system in changing offender
behavior. Across the country, recidivism rates exceed 50 percent. Thus, despite a massive

increase in prison construction in order to house more than two million people, state and federal
leaders have not built a sustainable structure for preparing offenders to return to the community
and become productive
Rearrest Rate, 1983 and 1994
members of society.
The lack of planning
has, according to recent
research, led to the
probability that our
corrections population
and corresponding
expenditures will
continue to rise for the
next several years.37
Offenders Co nvicted o f
Offenders Co nvicted o f P ublic Offenders Co nvicted o f Drug
P ro perty Crimes

Order Crimes




Economic impact of correctional budgets and policies across the country
Criminal justice policies are frequently triggered by emotional reactions to high profile incidents.
These policies are often maintained, despite their ineffectiveness, because of a lack of political
will to challenge soft-on-crime demagoguery. Budget crises present an opportunity to change
such policies despite the political risk because the public is more focused on wasteful
government spending. Nowhere is this more evident than in corrections and sentencing policy
and many states are taking this opportunity to reform expensive and ineffective policies. Below
are several examples of states that implemented policies using evidence-based practices to
reduce recidivism, improve public safety and create long-term cost savings.
Michigan – Six years ago Michigan began reforming its corrections system to require evidencebased programs for inmates returning to the community and to increase reliance on community
supervision rather than long prison terms.
 The success of the reentry initiative has resulted in fewer offenders re-offending and fewer
parolees returning to prison.
 Over the past two years the prison population has declined 7%.38
 Parole revocations have declined 42% as the parole population has increased 40%.39
 The reduction in the prison population and the success of the new parole initiatives has
allowed the state, since 2003, to close 13 corrections facilities and save $500 million.40
 Despite this year’s budget deficits and deep cuts, the Governor and legislature, recognizing
the important public safety outcomes that have occurred, doubled the funding for the
evidence-based reentry initiatives and for community supervision.41
Kansas – A 2006 study of the incoming prison population found that nearly 65 percent of new
prison admissions were offenders who had violated the terms of their previous release while on
probation or parole at a cost of $53 million annually.42 As the prison population grew, the need
to construct new prisons to accommodate the population also grew and policy makers projected
that it would cost $80 million in prison construction to address the growing population. Kansas
tried another option since it did not appear that the current policies were reducing crime or



Kansas reformed its community supervision process so that probation officers were
encouraged to keep offenders with non-criminal violations in the community using graduated
Lawmakers instituted a measure requiring a 20% reduction in probationers sent to prison for
violating release conditions.43
Lawmakers used financial incentives for counties to adopt evidence-based practices to reduce
the rate of probation revocations.44
Lawmakers restored earned time credits for nonviolent offenders and established 60-day
credit programs for inmates completing education and substance abuse programs.45
In the past three years of the program, parole revocations have dropped 48%.
Kansas has closed three prison units and a cell house, saving $34 million, and officials
anticipate they will avoid more than $80 million in additional corrections costs.46

Connecticut – Like many states, Connecticut had serious prison overcrowding and despite a
massive prison construction spree of 12 new prisons and an increased capacity of 50 percent by
the mid-1990s, the prison system was overcrowded within three years.47 This led the
Department of Corrections to send prisoners to other states, another significant drain on their
budget. Recognizing that these were short-term fixes, state lawmakers instituted new policies in
2004 designed to slow the inmate population and reduce the growing costs of corrections while
also reducing recidivism rates.
 The law required a 20 percent reduction in parole and probation revocations.48
 All inmates housed out-of-state were returned to Connecticut facilities.
 The community supervision law was amended requiring all eligible inmates be released to
community supervision prior to the completion of their sentences.49
 The law required the state to develop a reentry plan for all inmates leaving state custody to
reduce recidivism.50
 As the incarcerated population began to decline, $13 million in savings was redirected to
community-based strategies to reduce recidivism and improve public safety.51
 Reinvested funds enabled the Probation Department to implement a violation-reduction
program and a program focused on intensive treatment and supervision for violators that
would have otherwise been re-incarcerated.52
 In another act, lawmakers established a policy and planning division responsible for:
collecting data from various criminal justice agencies; tracking information and trends;
analyzing the system and effectiveness of the reforms; and recommending improvements.53
 Due to the success of the Probation initiatives, especially with higher-risk probationers,
revocation rates also decreased by 20 percent.54
 The prison population has declined 4% and the rate of prison admissions has declined 12%
since 2008.55


Other States – budget-related, evidence-based reforms:56
In an effort to reduce supervision costs and focus resources on supervising those at higher
risk to re-offend:

Now requires judges to remove offenders from community supervision who have been
supervised for at least two years and have satisfied all of the supervision conditions
except restitution, fines, or costs.
Eliminated supervised probation of people convicted of misdemeanors and some lowlevel felonies.
Reduced the maximum probation terms for people convicted of certain property or
drug offenses from 10 years to 5 years.

After years of tough-on-crime laws such as mandatory minimum sentences for drug
offenses, three-strikes laws and restrictive parole eligibility guidelines, many states are
rolling some of these measures back in an effort to shorten periods of confinement and
place lower-risk inmates in community-based settings:

Increased earned time for eligible inmates from 10 to 12 days per month and also allows
early parole release of 60 days for certain offenders.


Increased the amount of earned time people may accumulate from 20 percent of their
sentence to 30 percent of their sentence.

New York

Eliminated certain mandatory minimum drug sentences, known as the Rockefeller
Laws. It also expanded eligibility for early parole for those inmates with significant
medical needs.


Established a new medical parole policy which allows early release for inmates who are
55 years or older and are chronically or terminally ill.

Pennsylvania Adopted sentencing options for low-level offenders who are likely to receive a sentence
of imprisonment but who can opt for a shorter sentence that combines participation and
completion of an intense risk reduction program in prison with an earlier release date so
long as institutional behavior has been satisfactory.

Restored parole eligibility for mandatory minimum drug sentences.


Repealed mandatory minimum sentencing enhancements for certain offenses.


What works to reduce recidivism?
In order to reduce recidivism, the criminal justice system must improve offender reentry
outcomes. Successful reentry means fewer ex-offenders returning to criminal activity. Recent
research makes clear that effective reentry uses scientific methods to identify the risk of reoffense posed by an offender and the interventions that will reduce that risk. Decision-making
for security, program and treatment participation, and community supervision is guided by the
results of these methods. Such assessments occur throughout the phases of the criminal justice
process and assist in placing offenders under supervision commensurate with their risk and
In most cases, each phase of the process is managed by a single entity; for instance the judicial
branch sentences the offender and the department of corrections or county corrections agencies
manage the offender’s period of incarceration, yet each phase is linked to the others with regard
to offender reentry. See Appendix C for a reentry flow chart showing the stages and practices
supported by research.
Diversion – Research shows that most non-violent offenders can be effectively managed in the
community, without incarceration, so long as proven, evidence-based programs are part of the
supervision. The diversion of low-risk offenders from either trial (pre-trial diversion) or
incarceration (jail diversion) is usually decided by the court and involves diverting the offender
to structured treatment and supervision programs, prior to any significant involvement with the
criminal justice system. The goals of diversion include avoiding the cost of a jail bed for lowrisk offenders, putting offenders in community-based programs to address underlying problems
like substance abuse and mental health issues, and reducing the stigmatizing effects of a criminal
conviction or imprisonment.57
Sentencing – Sentences should not limit the ability of corrections professionals to prepare an
offender to reenter society. A court should recognize that the offender will return to the
community and that the sentence imposed will have an impact on how prepared the offender is to
constructively return to society. The laws should reflect the research and reduce the barriers to
effective reentry preparation. Cognizant of these findings, many states are taking steps to
mitigate the damaging effects of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, limitations on
low-security placements, like halfway houses, and restrictions on community supervision
through parole and probation.
Incarceration – With 97 percent of the incarcerated population eventually returning to the
community, the objective must be to reduce the risk that an ex-offender will return to crime.
While prison or jail is designed to separate prisoners from society for a period, it should also
change behaviors and attitudes that create the risk to public safety. This requires that risk
assessments be conducted to determine the inmate’s crime-inducing risks; that evidence-based
programs and treatment interventions be applied to reduce these risks; that a case plan be
developed and followed throughout incarceration; and that preparation for reentry be initiated
early to assist the inmate in adjusting to reintegration. Given the amount of money it costs to
incarcerate an individual, not reducing the risks that led the offender to crime and eventually to
prison is fiscally irresponsible.
Post-Release Supervision – Offenders returning to the community are either released with
supervision (parole or probation) or are released unconditionally, without supervision. Research
shows that supervision and treatment should be targeted to higher risk offenders being released


into the community.58 The research also shows that for low-risk offenders, supervision and
interventions should be minimal and offenders should be discharged as quickly as possible.59
Whether they are ready or not, low-risk or high-risk, almost all prisoners will be released at some
point. Therefore, while it may seem reasonable for a parole board to deny parole to a higher-risk
offender, it is neither good for the safety of public nor fiscally prudent to keep such offenders
locked up until the end of their sentence and then released without supervision. The placement
of higher risk offenders on supervision with appropriate treatment and support improves the
likelihood that the person will successfully transition into the community.
Transition to the Community – The community can be a resource for a returning offender or it
can lead to the offender’s failure and return to imprisonment. Community resources must be
capable of continuing the treatment and support that began in prison. The criminal justice
system must involve community service providers and local municipal leaders to ensure
sufficient resources are available to reduce the risk of recidivism. Recidivism means a return to
anti-social behavior, either in the form of a new crime or behavior that violates release
conditions, and this behavior almost always occurs in the community to which the offender
returns. The reentry process owes the community more than the return of poorly-equipped
offenders who will continue to destabilize the community.
Barriers to Effective Correctional Outcomes in Massachusetts
There are several reasons that Massachusetts has not had the public safety outcomes that a
correctional system should produce. Many of these are beyond the control of corrections
agencies and have been created through legislation or regulation. The most significant include:



Sentencing laws – Over the past several years the Massachusetts Legislature has passed laws
requiring mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, set longer prison and jail
sentences for non-violent offenses, and prohibited individuals convicted of certain offenses
from participating in work release and halfway houses. These changes contributed to a huge
increase in the prison and jail population. Currently there are 31 drug offenses that require
mandatory minimum sentences and nearly 2,000 inmates are housed in the prison system as a
result (not including the county jail system).60 At $47,000 a year per prison inmate and
mandatory minimum sentences ranging from two years to 10 years the cost of such a punitive
policy is significant.
Community supervision laws and policies – Inmates serving prison sentences are not eligible
for parole until they have served at least two-thirds of the maximum sentence no matter how
good their conduct has been. And inmates serving mandatory minimum drug sentences are
not eligible for parole at all. While this might seem appropriate, many inmates use their time
in prison constructively and are prepared to move back to the community under the
supervision of a parole officer earlier than currently allowed. Continuing to incarcerate these
inmates is expensive and unnecessary. Restrictive sentencing and parole eligibility laws
have also contributed to the nearly 40 percent of ex-offenders who are unsupervised
immediately after release.61
Collaboration – Massachusetts corrections agencies historically have been prime examples of
a silo mentality. Recently, some departments have voluntarily committed to working
together, although this is not widespread. The lack of collaboration has created redundancy,
wasted resources and made systemic policy improvements very difficult to implement.



Data Collection - Massachusetts does not have uniform data collection or information sharing
requirements for its
A number of bills currently before the Massachusetts legislature seek to
criminal justice agencies
address some of the challenges in the criminal justice system. However,
there is a significant question about the direction these bills will take the
or its corrections
Commonwealth and whether they will make the system more or less
agencies. A key factor in
effective and efficient. Given the state of the economy, the legislative
evaluating the
session has been dominated by whether new laws and regulations will reduce
effectiveness of
or increase the state’s expenditures. However, the public discussion around
corrections programs and
the criminal justice measures has not triggered the same degree of fiscal
scrutiny. The issues underlying these bills are not new and, as with previous
spending decisions is
attempts, success largely depends on the legislature’s willingness to enter the
recidivism data, yet there
criminal justice fray so close to an election.
is no uniform definition
of recidivism, making
These issues include:
collection and evaluation
Sentencing Reform – several bills related to changing some aspect of the
impossible. Uniform
sentencing laws are on the docket, many of which have been filed for several
data collection practices
sessions of the legislature. The most prominent of these bills would allow
would enhance the
parole for prisoners serving mandatory minimum sentences for drug
criminal justice system’s
offenses, reducing the impact of mandatory minimum drug sentences on
efficiency and accuracy.
transfers to community supervision, and another that would dramatically
increase the penalties for a third superior court conviction whether the crime
The lack of uniform data
is violent and serious or non-violent.
collection limits
transparency and restricts
CORI Reform – the issue of CORI reform has received significant attention
outcome-based budget
from the legislature. Over the last few sessions, several bills have been filed
and policy decisions.
and well-attended public hearings have occurred with no legislative changes
in the CORI laws. However, recently the Governor issued an Executive
Order and followed up with new regulations altering the hiring practices for
departments and vendors in the Executive Office of Health and Human
Services. The current CORI bills in the legislature seek changes to the
degree of access users of criminal record information currently have and the
information available on a criminal record. They also seek to improve the
process for obtaining criminal record information by streamlining access,
improving accuracy and greatly shortening the waiting period for a record.
The Governor’s bill makes wholesale changes to the CORI system and
purports to raise revenue.
Post-release Supervision – this issue has been before the legislature
previously and is prominent among policy makers because it seeks to
supervise everyone released from a state prison under the belief that all exprisoners require some kind of supervision after release. The mandatory
post-release supervision bills add a period of supervision onto the sentence
imposed by the court and require each returning ex-prisoner to be supervised
by the Parole Board.
There is little indication that any of the bills addressing these issues will
cause a measurable reduction in the prison and jail populations, recidivism or
the corrections budgets. Of additional concern is that these bills are devoid,
for the most part, of full-cost projections or the ancillary costs associated
with additional supervision caseloads, greater numbers of parolees violating
conditions of parole, a massive expansion in the length of sentences of
prisoners serving third superior court convictions, and the growing costs of
incarcerating an aging prison population that will require support and
services commensurate with their age and needs. These bills also do not
reflect the research or evidence of what is effective in reducing recidivism
and stemming the growing costs of corrections.


Highlights in
Massachusetts Corrections
Throughout the corrections
system, involving
community supervision
agencies and prisons and
jails, there are very positive
signs of progress, best and
promising practices, and
recognition that the future
should be guided by what
works to reduce recidivism.
The Hampden County
Sheriff’s Department has
consistently collected and
reported recidivism data for
several years and recent data
continue to show positive
outcomes. The rate of
recidivism has steadily
declined since 2001 when the
one-year recidivism rate was

31 percent with the current rate at 23 percent.62 Additionally, Hampden County has been a
national leader in the implementation of evidence-based reentry practices and this commitment
has led to not only the reduction of recidivism, but also stable and motivated community-based
collaborations. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department has also implemented a performance
accountability model63 that applies to staff as well as inmates. Inmates are expected to
participate in programs designed to reduce their risk of re-offense. Staff members are expected
to assist inmates in participating and succeeding in preparing for reentry and recognize that their
professional advancement depends on their performance.
Another improved area is the Parole Board. Parole data show significant progress in the
percentage of parole applicants being granted parole:
o In 1998, the parole rate was 46 percent64
o In 2008, the parole rate was 70 percent65
Research shows that community supervision using appropriate offender management techniques
and evidence-based interventions reduces recidivism and improves public safety. The Parole
Board recognized that lower-risk offenders unnecessarily sitting in expensive prison cells would
be better prepared for the community if they had some period of parole supervision prior to
discharge. By paroling these offenders earlier than might have been done in previous years, the
Parole Board was able to improve the preparation for the offender’s return to the community and
reduce the likelihood that the offender would return to anti-social behavior. While more people
are being paroled, they are also succeeding in greater numbers and are discharging from parole
supervision without incident.
The Parole Board has also made progress in data collection and has recently focused on outcome
data designed to illuminate the reasons that some inmates do not succeed. The Parole Board’s
initiatives, focused on intensive parole for higher risk parolees, housing for parolees, and the
stability provided by Regional Reentry Centers, have contributed to below average recidivism
rates for individuals who have been discharged from parole for at least three years.66
The Department of Correction (DOC) has recently implemented evidence-based programs
throughout its reentry preparation process which use a validated risk/need assessment tool and
targeted interventions for inmates preparing for reentry. Not only is this an effective use of
taxpayer funds but these programs have been shown to reduce recidivism.
The Department is also putting in place a process focused on preparing those offenders most
likely to re-offend and has collaborated with the Parole Board to integrate parole officers in the
reentry process so that the transition to the community is as seamless as possible.
Recently, the DOC embarked on an ambitious initiative to improve employment prospects for
prisoners preparing for release through a combination of services and programs designed to
diminish the characteristics leading to criminal behavior and skill development and training to
make them job-ready. Characteristics such as substance abuse, mental health problems, poor
family ties, anti-social relationships in the community, and impulsiveness and anger are targeted
for proven interventions. Skill development programs are then provided along with connections
to employers and employment support programs in the communities to which the inmates return
in order to build a bridge to stability after release. The Department’s efforts match those in other
states that have produced a successful transition model and reduced rates of re-offense.


The Essex County Sheriff’s Department has recently implemented a reentry preparation process
focused on improving employment opportunities for ex-offenders. The process includes basic
education and soft skill
Boston’s Community Collaboration Model
development, treatment
to address substance
Using key evidence-based principles, the city of Boston and several public and
abuse and mental health
private partners have implemented a safety initiative to reduce the incidence of
issues, and directed
youth violence in Boston’s neighborhoods.
training in jobs that are
The initiative, called StreetSafe Boston, was conceived and driven by the
available to a recently
Boston Foundation in conjunction with the City of Boston and a number of key
released offender.
organizations. The initiative involves the collaboration of a unique
combination of partners; targeting high-risk neighborhoods of the city; and the
delivery of wraparound services all focused on a very small percentage of the
population responsible for a majority of the violent crime in the city.

Research has guided the initiative since its inception. A study by the Harvard
Kennedy School found that 1 percent of Boston’s youth population drove over
50 percent of the gun violence. It found that 70 percent of the shootings were
concentrated in about 5 percent of the city’s streets and specifically in 5
neighborhoods. The initiative then trained street workers familiar with the
environment to intervene in the lives of these high-risk individuals and it
reached out to community service providers to participate. Assessment tools
are used to identify the high-risk targets of the outreach and street workers meet
the targeted youth where they are. By providing safe access to pro-social
programs as well as connections to workforce, education, housing, family,
reentry and mental health services, street workers and other community partners
are able to provide positive, long-term and goal-oriented alternatives to gang
involvement and anti-social activities. While focused on high-risk, violent
youth, this model combines key elements of research-supported best practices
for community collaborations and should be a model that can be brought to
scale as well as modified to address older, high-risk individuals.

While this progress is
supported by evidence
of what works to reduce
victimization and the
cost of corrections, these
programs should be
expanded to reach all
prisoners who will be
released and those under
supervision in the

Unfortunately, these
promising and in some
cases proven programs,
to reduce re-offending
and lower prison and jail
populations, have been affected by recent budget cuts. The FY10 budget cuts to corrections
agencies, while comparatively minimal to other state services, have adversely affected the
programs and services that have the greatest impact on recidivism and public safety. The
primary reason for this appears to be the exorbitant fixed costs of maintaining so many
corrections facilities, the statutory restrictions to moving appropriate inmates to low-security
facilities and community supervision and the flood of low-risk individuals serving mandatory
sentences for non-violent offenses. The Hobson’s Choice for corrections administrators – either
cut programs and services that ultimately make communities safer or close prisons in the midst
of significant overcrowding – has left many programs vulnerable. With little external support,
the progress made by corrections agencies over the past few years may be in jeopardy.


Potential Solutions
With the economic crisis necessitating significant cuts to vital state services and information and
data obtained from other states that are implementing practices which reduce recidivism, lower
the cost of corrections and improve public safety, Massachusetts has the ingredients and the
opportunity to take similar steps. Principles and practices that should guide a corrections reform
effort include:
Make the reduction of recidivism the collective goal of the criminal justice system.
A singular message that the Commonwealth is unified in reducing recidivism. Because
recidivism means new victims and additional costs, reducing recidivism must be a priority.
Establish uniform data collection and information sharing.
“What gets measured gets done.” This adage should form the foundation of the system’s
collection and use of data. Data and information, collected and shared, enables agencies to
determine whether their approaches are working and what needs improvement. Uniform data
collection leads to common operational practices and consistent communication protocols which
improve efficiency and effectiveness in the criminal justice system. Data and information also
provide accountability and transparency to the public when it comes to the use of tax dollars.
Science should guide decision-making.
Over the last 10 years, extensive research has been conducted about what works and what
doesn’t work, and what is and is not cost effective, in reducing recidivism. Research shows that
the use of assessment tools to identify higher-risk prisoners, the application of evidence-based
programs targeted to this population that are proven to reduce these risks, and the supervision of
these individuals by trained parole officers reduces the likelihood that higher-risk ex-prisoners
will return to criminal activity. We know what works to reduce recidivism and do not need to
reinvent the wheel.
Examine laws and practices that restrict access to supervised reentry programs for non-violent
Research shows that prisoners who are supervised in the community and participate in programs
and services designed to reduce their risk to re-offend are more likely to stay out of trouble after
their sentences end. A recent Massachusetts recidivism study found that 20 percent of the
offenders who recidivated did so within the first six months of release and nearly 50 percent did
so within the first year of release.67 Yet, more than 40 percent of state prisoners are not
supervised prior to the end of their sentences. Most offenders need support and supervision once
they are released and this is best done through the use of parole practices that assist ex-offenders
in obtaining housing, treatment and therapy, skill development and employment. Massachusetts
must reduce the barriers to supervised support for those individuals most likely to re-offend after
Collaborate with multiple stakeholders in the communities to which offenders return and use the
existing community capacity to improve reentry outcomes and reduce the risk of re-offense.
The urban centers in Massachusetts are fortunate to have a wealth of effective and dedicated
community service providers that assist those in greatest need or at highest risk. Some of these
providers have been effectively engaged as is evident in the StreetSafe Boston model discussed
earlier in this report and the After Incarceration Support Services model run by the Hampden
County Sheriff’s Department. Massachusetts would benefit from a statewide effort that uses


these models to link state and municipal efforts with community providers for a more efficient
and effective community reentry model.
Reconsider allocations that direct significant resources to prison and jail infrastructure and far
fewer to programs and services that reduce recidivism.
Research shows that programs and services must be available in the community if reentry is to
succeed in reducing the risk that an offender will re-offend. Yet, the inflation adjusted budgets
for prisons and jails rose more than 12 percent and 20 percent respectively and the probation
budget rose 163 percent between 1998 and 2008. Over the same period, the Department of
Public Health budget, which funds substance abuse programs in the community, shrank 3.3
percent. This distribution of resources ignores the research indicating that treatment programs
and skill development are necessary components in reducing re-offense and victimization.
Direct corrections resources to managing and preparing higher-risk offenders for successful
transition into the community.
Higher-risk offenders are just that, offenders more likely to re-offend after release; and most
high-risk offenders will be released from the corrections system at some point. Therefore the
public is far better served if resources are directed to reducing the risk these offenders pose than
focusing on those who pose minimal risk to re-offend.


The economic crisis has forced state and local governments to make changes they would not
consider making at any other time. Most of these changes are painful and likely will be
reconsidered when the fiscal crisis is over. Yet, many states also are seeing unexpected
opportunities to implement evidence-based practices throughout their corrections systems.
These reforms, some triggered by the budget crisis, are nevertheless driven by a need to improve
effectiveness and efficiency through the implementation of proven practices. For those states
that were already moving in this direction, such as Michigan and Connecticut, the budget crisis
has not been as damaging. Indeed they are benefiting from data and outcomes that support the
continuation of innovative policies. As shown in the case studies in this report, the movement
toward evidence-based sentencing policy and corrections practices has long-term benefits for
states and communities, not just short-term benefits for state budgets.
Historically, corrections systems have been nearly impenetrable to research and thoughtful
policy decision-making. This has led to massive prison and jail populations in states across the
country and even larger state corrections budgets. Sentencing, parole and release policies often
have been driven by headlines rather than by research into public safety and the reduction of
victimization. The economic crisis has offered many state leaders the opportunity to reconsider
these policies in an effort to control the cost of corrections and improve public safety outcomes.
In some cases, states have had no choice but to make changes in their systems due to budgetary
In this bleak budget climate we often hear state leaders and advocates for various interest groups
agreeing that budgets are a statement of a state’s priorities and values. Whether government is
cutting vital services or increasing taxes to meet the needs of a state’s residents, there is a
resounding call for budgeting focused on priorities and on “what works.” Throughout the
country, states are deciding whether and how much to reduce funds for schools, health care,
support services for those most at risk, aid to cities and towns and the preservation of important
quality of life programs. State residents deserve value for their tax dollars and many states are
concluding that government should produce measurable public safety results.
Massachusetts has not been on the leading edge of this issue. While states across the country are
reducing prison and jail populations through sentencing reform, instituting earlier parole
eligibility combined with smart supervision and case management practices, and using new
approaches to data collection and outcome measures, Massachusetts is considering a bill to
institute a three-strikes law68 that would significantly increase the prison population for years to
come, as well as a proposal to spend half a billion dollars to construct new prisons and untold
millions to operate them.
The economic crisis has been difficult for government leaders at all levels as well as the people
who rely on government to make ends meet. Significant cuts in the services that Massachusetts
prides itself in providing – such as public higher education, public health and support for local
communities – should trigger reforms in the criminal justice system that make it more effective
and efficient. It is essential that Massachusetts policy makers closely examine the costs and
benefits of our current approach to corrections and reentry, carefully weigh the evidence when it
comes to proposed changes, and make the right decisions on behalf of the people of the


Appendix A
The information in this appendix clarifies the data presented in the figures in this report. Each
Figure in the report is numbered and the corresponding data supporting the information is found
Figure 1: Percent Change; FY98 and FY08 MA State Budgets – Unadjusted

FY98 Budget –
Unadjusted for Inflation

FY08 Budget

FY98 vs. FY08
Budget Percent Change

County HOC/Sheriffs




Parole Board








Higher Education




Public Health




Local Aid




Dept. of Education




*Probation budget adjusted to account for 2004 district court budget transfer of $81 million. Actual 2008 budget is $157,926,086

Figure 2: Percent Change; FY98 and FY08 MA State Budgets – Adjusted
County HOC/Sheriffs
Parole Board
Higher Education
Public Health
Local Aid
Dept. of Education

FY98 Budget –
Adjusted for Inflation

FY08 Budget

FY98 vs. FY08
Budget Percent Change

*Probation budget adjusted to account for 2004 district court budget transfer of $81 million. Actual 2008 budget is $157,926,086

Figure 3: MA Inmate Growth: Prison System, 1980, 1995, 2008
Data found in Massachusetts Department of Correction publications for Third Quarter of 1980
and of 1995, Quarterly Report on the Status of Prison Overcrowding.


Citation and reference information for the data in these tables is found in Appendix B.


Figure 4: Percent Change; Incarcerated/Supervised Population and Budget, 1998 vs. 2008

1998 Population

2008 Population

County HOC/Sheriffs



’98 vs. ’08 Population
Percent Change

DOC – Figures are average daily population from 3rd Q 1998 and 2008
HOC – Figures are average daily population from 3rd Q 1998 and 2008
Parole – Figures are total annual caseload
Probation – 2008 number does not include 80,507 cases on administrative supervision from district court transfer in 2004 or
Family and Probate category

Figure 5: 2010 MA State Budget Cuts

FY2009 Budget***

FY2010 Budget

Percent Change





County HOC/Sheriffs




Parole Board








Higher Education*




Public Health




Local Aid**




Social Services




Dept. of Education




Budgets do not include retained revenue line items. FY2010 budgets do not include vetoes or overrides
* Does not include $155,939,201 in ARRA funds. Including these funds, higher education will decrease by 3.07% in FY10.
** Does not include potential ARRA funds. Including the potential $167,649,347 ARRA funding, local aid will decrease by
15.89% in FY10. Local Aid budget does not include Chapter 70 allocation.
***General Appropriation


Appendix B
Budget Reference Information
This page serves as a reference and citation section for the budget data found in the report. What
would have been cited in footnotes in the narrative of the report is found in this section due to the
repetition of the budget data discussed in the report. The data is presented in chronological order
beginning with the most recent budget information discussed in the report.
Fiscal Year 2010 budget information –
House 4129, An Act Making Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2010 for the
Maintenance of the Departments, Boards, Commissioners, Institutions and Certain
Activities of the Commonwealth, For Interest, Sinking Fund and Serial Bond
Requirements and for Certain Permanent Improvements. The Commonwealth of
Massachusetts (June 2009).
(The budget data in the report does not include vetoes made by the Governor or overrides
voted on by the legislature)
Found at
Fiscal Year 2009 budget information –
Chapter 182 of the Acts of 2008, An Act Making Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2009
for the Maintenance of the Departments, Boards, Commissioners, Institutions and
Certain Activities of the Commonwealth, For Interest, Sinking Fund and Serial Bond
Requirements and for Certain Permanent Improvements. The Commonwealth of
Massachusetts (July 2008).
Found at
Fiscal Year 2008 budget information –
Chapter 61 of the Acts of 2007, An Act Making Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2008
for the Maintenance of the Departments, Boards, Commissioners, Institutions and
Certain Activities of the Commonwealth, For Interest, Sinking Fund and Serial Bond
Requirements and for Certain Permanent Improvements. The Commonwealth of
Massachusetts (July 2007).
Found at
Fiscal Year 1998 budget information –
Chapter 43 of the Acts of 1997, Fiscal Year 1998 Budget. Commonwealth of
Massachusetts (July 1997).
Found at


Appendix C

Offender Reentry Flow Chart
Sentencing – the beginning of the
reentry process. Sentencing has
significant impact on the ability of
corrections officials to prepare
prisoners for reentry. Decisions that
allow for diversion from prison or jail,
placement in a treatment center or a
sentence enabling an earlier parole
decision recognize that not all
offenders require a long period of
incarceration and that reentry can start
earlier with better results. Restrictive
sentencing policies such as mandatory
minimum drug sentences limit
appropriate sentencing decisions and
sound preparation by corrections

Planning for discharge – every
prisoner who will return to the street
should have a reentry plan. The
development of the reentry plan
should begin once the individual’s
risk/needs assessment and
intervention plan is determined. The
plan should incorporate the
intervention programs, the ongoing
needs of the prisoner as he or she
moves through the system, the likely
factors that will be present in the
individual’s life upon return to the
community and information on
managing each of these. The plan
should be collaborative and multidisciplinary and should address
preparation for release, terms and
conditions of release, and post-release
supervision and services. The other
supervisory agencies, parole and
probation, should be part of the
creation of the reentry plan and should
actively participate in the transition
from prison to the community.



Assessing inmate’s risks and
needs – to understand the
problems that led an individual to
prison, the system must know the
kind of risk they pose and what
their needs are in order to
minimize that risk. Therefore,
upon intake a validated risk
assessment tool should measure
the prisoner’s risk of committing
another crime and evaluate the
factors that created the risk.
Assessments should be done
periodically as the individual
moves through the system to
gauge the progress and evolving
needs of the offender at different

Targeting interventions – the job of the
correctional system is to reduce the risk
prisoners pose to the community. The
risk/needs assessment tool gives
corrections officials the information to
target those risk factors that can be
mitigated. Interventions such as
programs addressing substance abuse,
lack of educational attainment and
employment skills, and antisocial
attitudes must be targeted to those with
these deficits who are a higher risk to reoffend. The programs must be those that
research has shown to be effective in
mitigating these risks. In a national
study only about 10% of the programs
reviewed attained the highest levels of

Classification and step-down –
as prisoners move through the
system, they should be housed in
facilities appropriate to their risk
level and their programmatic
needs. Their classification levels
must be adjusted to reflect their
diminishing levels of risk related
to incarceration so that they can
be appropriately transferred to
facilities where the transition to
the community is more seamless.
Pre-release facilities and workrelease facilities provide
programs that are unavailable in
medium or high security facilities
and prepare the individual much
better for the transition to the

Post-release supervision and
support – More than 40% of the
prisoners released from the
Department of Correction are
unsupervised upon release. Worse,
83% (in 2002) of the prisoners
released from a maximum security
prison to the community do not have
parole supervision. Thus inmates
who pose the greatest threat to the
community upon release are the
least likely to be supervised.
Research shows that supervision
and services are a necessary
component of an individual’s
successful reentry. Support services
must coincide with supervision in
the community in order to continue
to address the individual’s risk
factors that are likely to lead to reoffending. Model programs
combine collaborations with key
community stakeholders with
wraparound service delivery.


Offender Reentry: Key Elements of Each Step
Sentencing –
• Give the judiciary greater
authority to impose nonmandatory sentences, within
guidelines, for drug offenses
• Increase diversion programs as
an option for judges to impose
rather than incarceration
• Reduce parole eligibility periods
for non-violent individuals
• Restore earned compliance
credits to encourage good
behavior and program
participation and enable lowerrisk prisoners to transition to the

Planning for discharge –
• Create reentry plan committee in
each facility
• Create collaborations between
the DOC, each facility and
supervising agency, and the
community programs that will
participate in the individual’s
continuation of care after release
• Bring employers into the
facilities who are likely to
consider hiring recently released
individuals to assist in skills
training programs (soft and hard
skills), conduct job fairs and
network with prisoners preparing
for release
• Ensure that prisoners understand
the plan and what is expected
throughout their incarceration
and as they transfer to parole.



Assessing prisoner’s risks and
needs –
• Risk assessment used
throughout incarceration to
assess program application
and accomplishments
• The same risk assessment
tool used by the DOC,
sheriffs, parole and
• Risk assessment tool
should be used to
determine level of
supervision and types of
interventions for
individuals on probation
and parole.

Targeting –
• Implement programs that
have been proven effective to
reduce re-offense
• Programs should be directed
toward higher risk prisoners,
those more likely to reoffend
when released, in order to
reduce recidivism
• Prisoners must be induced to
participate and allowed to
complete programs they are
participating in
• Create reentry housing for
those prisoners participating
in programs and preparing
for life in the community.

Classification and step-down –
• Objectively classify all
prisoners in DOC custody
without regard for where
they are currently housed
• Determine whether the
DOC facilities’ security
levels match the needs of
the prisoner security levels
based on the objective
• Ensure that a prisoner’s
custody level match his or
her placement
• Create broader
collaboration with HOCs to
receive prisoners who will
soon discharge to the
HOC’s community

Post-release supervision and
support –
A returning prisoner should have:
• an identification, health
insurance, resume of
accomplishments while in
custody, copy of accurate
CORI, contacts for employment
and housing providers in their
community, contacts who can
guide their immediate postincarceration decision making
housing, even if temporary
• a job lined up or at least
employer contacts
• a mentor for the first couple
weeks, at least, of the transition
• ability to communicate quickly
with supervisor or someone that
can help
• a network of community
partners capable of supporting
the person’s success



Fiscal Year 2009 budget citation and information found in Appendix B. Complete budget amounts found in
Appendix A.
Fiscal Year 1998 budget citation and information found in Appendix B. Complete budget amounts found in
Appendix A.
Fiscal Year 2008 budget citation and information found in Appendix B. Complete budget amounts found in
Appendix A.
Inflation adjusted numbers based on 32.1% inflation rate based on Annual Average CPI-U for 1998 (163.0) and
2008 (215.303). Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor.
Memo from Corrections Commissioner Larry DuBois to the members of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on
Corrections, December 12, 1995.
Massachusetts Department of Correction, Quarterly Report on the Status of Prison Overcrowding, Third Quarter
of 1995. Average daily population for 3rd quarter. (November 1995)
Metzler C. Commitments to Massachusetts Houses of Correction during 1980. Massachusetts Department of
Correction (March 1980)
Massachusetts Department of Correction, Quarterly Report on the Status of Prison Overcrowding, Third Quarter
of 1995. Average daily population for 3rd quarter. (November 1995)
Data for the three years identified in this paragraph is found in the Quarterly Report on the Status of Prison
Overcrowding, Third Quarter for the following years 1990, 1998, and 2008. Massachusetts Department of
Correction. Available at:
The risk/needs caseload, while unclear in the Probation Department’s publicly available information, appears to be
a traditional probation caseload requiring monitoring and management of a probationer by a probation officer.
Massachusetts Department of Correction, Quarterly Report on the Status of Prison Overcrowding, Third Quarter
of 1998 and Quarterly Report on the Status of Prison Overcrowding, Third Quarter 2008. The average Daily
Population in all facilities was used. (November 1998 and October 2008)
Massachusetts Parole Board, 2008 Annual Statistical Report. Data for 1998 obtained in an email from Parole
Board staff upon electronic request on May 29, 2009.
Office of the Commissioner of Probation, Research Department, Fiscal Year 1998 – Fiscal Year 1999. This
comparison used FY 1999 data because the 1998 data was missing significant comparison data. Additionally, the
data for both years does not include data for administrative supervision for two of the largest low-level populations.
The Probation Department budget in line item 0339-1001 was increased from $13,315,523 in FY 2003
( to $105,861,116 in FY 2004
Recidivism is commonly defined as the return of an offender to incarceration or a conviction for a new crime
within a three-year period. Massachusetts criminal justice agencies do not have a uniform definition of recidivism
and therefore recidivism data is difficult to compare across agencies and departments.
Kohl R, Hoover HM, McDonald SM, Solomon AL, Massachusetts Recidivism Study: A closer Look at Releases
and Returns to Prison. Urban Institute and Massachusetts Department of Correction. (April 2008)
Massachusetts Sentencing Commission, 2002.
Data received in a May 28, 2009 email from Parole Board staff.
Massachusetts Parole Board, 2008 Annual Statistical Report.
Office of the Commissioner of Probation, Administrative Office of the Trial Court Annual Report, Fiscal Year
1998 – Fiscal Year 1999. Research Department, Massachusetts Probation Department
Office of the Commissioner of Probation, General Statistics, Fiscal Years 2007 & 2008. Research Department,
Massachusetts Probation Department.
The Governor’s Commission on Corrections Reform, Strengthening Public Safety, Increasing Accountability and
Instituting Fiscal Responsibility in the Department of Correction. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (June, 30,
Ibid pg. 2.
Massachusetts Department of Correction, Annual Report 2007, DOC Overview Charts and Graphs. (2007)



The Governor’s Commission on Corrections Reform, Strengthening Public Safety, Increasing Accountability and
Instituting Fiscal Responsibility in the Department of Correction. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (June, 30,
Fiscal Year 2010 budget citation and information found in Appendix B. Complete budget amounts found in
Appendix A.
The higher education budget cut does not reflect the potential federal funds from the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Depending on the amount allocated to higher education if the ARRA funds are
distributed, the Higher Education budget reduction could be approximately 3% rather than 17%.
The local aid budget cut does not reflect the potential federal funds from the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Depending on the amount allocated to local aid if the ARRA funds are distributed, the
Local Aid budget reduction could be approximately 15% rather than 28%.
Warren J, One in 100: Behind Bars in America in 2008. Pew Charitable Trusts, Public Safety Performance
Project. (February 28, 2008)
Urahn S, One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections. Pew Charitable Trusts, Public Safety Performance
Project. (March 2, 2008)
Pew Charitable Trusts, Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison Population 2007-2011.
Public Safety Performance Project, Washington, DC, (2006)
Warren J, One in 100: Behind Bars in America in 2008. Pew Charitable Trusts, Public Safety Performance
Project. (February 28, 2008)
Sabol WJ, Rosich K, Kane KM, Kirk DP, Dubin G, The Influences of Truth in Sentencing Reforms on Changes in
States’ Sentencing Practices and Prison Populations. Urban Institute. (April 2002)
Pew Charitable Trusts, Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison Population 2007-2011.
Public Safety Performance Project, Washington, DC, (2006)
38 article, Michigan Shuts 8 Prison to Save $120M. June 6, 2009 article on
quoting John Cordell, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Michigan Department of Corrections, presentation by Deputy Director Dennis Schrantz to the US House of
Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice Reforms, Washington DC (June 2009)
Data received from Public Information Officer for the Michigan Department of Correction in an email on August
26, 2009.
Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, H.B. 4437, FY 2009-2010 Corrections Budget, Governor’s Recommendation.
(February 2009)
Fabelo T, Tough and Smart: Opportunities for Kansas Policymakers to Reduce Crime and Spending. Presentation
to Kansas Legislature, December 12, 2006.
U.S. House of Representatives, Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related
Agencies, Statement by Secretary Roger Werholtz, Kansas Department of Correction. Hearing on Justice
Reinvestment, April 1, 2009
Pew Charitable Trusts, Connecticut Case Study. Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts
and the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center. (February 2007)
Connecticut General Assembly, Public Act 04-234: An Act Concerning Prison Overcrowding. (July 2004)
Pew Charitable Trusts, Connecticut Case Study. Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts
and the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center. (February 2007)
Connecticut General Assembly, Public Act 06-193: An Act Concerning Criminal Justice Policy and Planning and
the Establishment of a Sentencing Task Force. (July 2006)
Cox S, Bantley K, Roscoe T, Evaluation of the Court Support Services Division’s Probation Transition Program
and Technical Violation Unit. Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Central Connecticut State
University. (December 2005)
Connecticut Office of Policy and Planning, Monthly Indicators Report, June 2009. Connecticut Criminal Justice
Policy and Planning Division. (June 2009)
Scott-Hayward C, The Fiscal Crisis in Corrections: Rethinking Policies and Practices. Center on Sentencing and
Corrections, Vera Institute of Justice. (July 2009)



Clark J, The Role of Traditional Pretrial Diversion in the Age of Specialty Treatment Courts: Expanding the
Range of Problem-Solving Options at the Pretrial Stage. Pretrial Justice Institute. (October 2007)
Data received from Department of Correction research unit in an email on February 3, 2009.
Massachusetts Department of Correction, An Effective Reentry Focused Correctional System. Presentation by
Commissioner Harold Clarke. (July 2009)
Lyman M, Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Report Overview. Research Division, Hampden County Sheriff’s
Department. Received in an email from Hampden County Sheriff’s Department September 10, 2009.
The Governor’s Commission on Corrections Reform, Strengthening Public Safety, Increasing Accountability and
Instituting Fiscal Responsibility in the Department of Correction. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (June, 30,
Data received from Parole Board staff in an email dated May 28, 2009.
Massachusetts Parole Board, 2008 Annual Statistical Report.
Massachusetts Parole Board, A Profile of Factors and Offenses Related to Parolee Recidivism. Report compiled
for successful parolees discharged from parole in 2004. (December 2008)
Kohl R, Hoover HM, McDonald SM, Solomon AL, Massachusetts Recidivism Study: A closer Look at Releases
and Returns to Prison. Urban Institute and Massachusetts Department of Correction. (April 2008)
See House Bill 1423: An Act Relative to the Punishment of Habitual Offenders. Massachusetts House of
Representatives. (2009)




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