Jobs not Jails

Statewide coalition to redirect costly prison spending towards jobs, training and support for Massachusetts' lowest income communities.

For the last 40 years, we have been steadily and rapidly increasing the number and percentage of our people that we incarcerate, both in the United States as a whole and here in Massachusetts.  According to a recent report published by MassINC , the incarceration rate in Massachusetts has TRIPLED since the 1980’s.

The rate of incarceration in Massachusetts places us on par with Kazakhstan and French Guiana, which are among the worst ten countries in the world in terms of incarceration.

In addition to the enormous human cost to families and neighborhoods of caging so many of our people, the advent of mass incarceration has also meant more of our public resources are being consumed by the prison budget.  In fiscal year 2013, Massachusetts is already spending $1.28 billion on prisons, probation and parole. This does not include the costs of prosecutors, courts, and other law enforcement budgets.  The total for all these costs is over $2.5 billion a year.

As these costs have grown, they are squeezing out funding for vital public goods such as public education, health care and local aid.  For the first time, Massachusetts now spends more on prisons than on higher education.

If we do not take action NOW, this trend is only going to get worse. Last year, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a “get tough” “three strikes” law.  Even before this law was enacted, the Patrick Administration estimated that Massachusetts would need to spend $1.3 to $2.3 billion construction 10,000 new prison units by 2020, and an additional $150 million to keep people in them.

As if the cost weren’t bad enough, our corrections system is a failure.  According to statistics recently reported to the Massachusetts Commission on Criminal Justice by the Pew Centers’ Results First analysis, the recidivism rates for every level of punishment (DYS, County Jails, DOC, parole and probation) all exceed 60%.  In other words, most people who go through the system end up going through it again.

http://www.massbudget.org/browser/cat.php?id=Law+%26+Public+Safety&inflation=cpi

http://www.mass.gov/eopss/docs/eops/publications/the-massachusetts-corrections-master-plan.pdf