Justice Reinvestment in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has achieved one of the lowest incarceration rates in the nation in recent years, but state leaders realized they needed to do more to address recidivism. People with prior convictions were responsible for three-quarters of new sentences in 2013. Two-thirds of people leaving Houses of Correction (HOCs) and more than half of those leaving Department of Correction (DOC) facilities in 2011 were rearraigned within three years of their release.
To address the challenge of recidivism, Massachusetts leaders requested and received support from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance during the summer of 2015 to use a data-driven Justice Reinvestment approach to study the state’s criminal justice system, with intensive technical assistance from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. A bipartisan, interbranch steering committee and working group were established to support this work.
The working group and steering committee—which included stakeholders from all three branches of government—worked with CSG Justice Center staff to review analyses and develop policy options to reduce recidivism and lower costs. In the spring of 2018, the legislature passed two major pieces of criminal justice legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support: HB 4012, which stemmed directly from the justice reinvestment effort, and SB 2371, a criminal justice omnibus bill that was informed by the effort. Both pieces of legislation were signed into law on April 13, 2018 by Governor Charlie Baker.
HB 4012 expands earned-time credits for people who complete recidivism-reduction programming and treatment in prison and gives judges more pretrial alternatives to incarceration. By adopting these policies, the state expects to reduce recidivism and avert nearly $10 million in corrections costs by 2023.
SB 2371 enacts sweeping criminal justice reforms, including making adjustments to mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, improving data collection, and encouraging judges and district attorneys to use diversion programs in lieu of jail for people with behavioral health needs.