Massachusetts Expands Investments to Reduce Recidivism

By The Council of State Governments Justice Center Staff

US map with MA highlightedLast year, Massachusetts passed legislation representing the most significant changes to the state’s criminal justice system in decades. This legislation took concrete steps to incentivize good behavior in prison, divert people to treatment and programming as an alternative to incarceration, and strengthen community supervision.

Now the state has solidified and expanded those investments to reduce recidivism in its budget for Fiscal Year 2020, providing substantial funding for programs that will make a difference in the lives of people serving probation and parole.

The budget includes:

  • Continued expansion for the Office of Community Corrections. The legislature has provided $3.8 million in funding over the last two years for the state’s Community Corrections Centers (CCCs). This funding will allow the Office of Community Corrections to expand its presence to Middlesex and Franklin counties with centers planned for Framingham, Lowell, and Woburn.
  • $3.1 million to expand a behavioral health pilot program in Middlesex and Worcester counties that provides individualized supports and services for people who are in the criminal justice system, have serious mental illnesses and/or substance addictions, and are at a high risk of reoffending. The additional funding will allow Massachusetts to double the number of people served by the pilot with half of those slots reserved for individuals on community supervision.
  • $2 million to establish a new grant program that will offer a continuum of pre-release and post-release reentry services to adults between 18 and 25 years old in collaboration with houses of correction. Services will include transition plans, education programs, workforce readiness and life skills programs, and counseling.
  • $1.2 million to expand a transitional employment program for young people at a high risk of reoffending. In partnership with the local nonprofit UTEC, the state’s program offers young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 paid work experience through three businesses that are designed to help them develop the necessary skills to thrive in the workplace.
  • $2.5 million in additional funding for a grant program that offers community-based housing and case management reentry services. This funding would add 60 more transitional housing beds to the 124 established last year. Support services at these locations include medication-assisted treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, substance use treatment, and workforce development programming.
  • a $10 million increase in the Office of Probation’s budget, which will allow for the establishment of a pretrial services unit and improvements to its caseload management system that will include hiring two additional researchers to address data concerns.

In April 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed two major pieces of criminal justice legislation that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the legislature: HB 4012 and SB 2371. Justice Reinvestment, a data-driven process to reduce correctional spending and reinvest in strategies to improve public safety, led directly to HB 4012 and helped inform the development of SB 2371.

In addition to the significant investments made in Massachusetts’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget, the state implemented in April an expanded earned-time credits provision included in HB 4012. People who participate in recidivism-reduction programs while in prison can earn up to 15 days of sentence-reduction credit (earned-time credit) per month. Upon completion of select programs that are both proven to reduce recidivism and are approved by the Department of Corrections, people with prison sentences are also eligible to receive up to 80 days of additional earned time as a completion bonus, in addition to the existing 10-day completion credit. HB 4012 also allows people with certain mandatory minimum sentences to accrue earned time toward supervised release prior to their minimum sentence date.

As part of the Justice Reinvestment process, staff from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center have worked with the Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS) to develop a new curriculum and training plan for officers that aligns the state’s community supervision efforts with best practices on recidivism-reduction strategies. CSG Justice Center staff have also worked with MPS to modify caseload allocations so that higher-risk clients receive a greater proportion of supervision services.