1. As of April 28, 2020, 176 inmates in Massachusetts tested positive for COVID-19 and 7 have died, according to Prisoners’ Legal Services.

2.Between 1999 and 2008, 113 correctional officers lost their lives in the line of duty. National Institutes of Justice, Risky business, Corrections Today, March/April 2018; COs have a suicide rate that is twice as high as the rate of police officers and the general population. US Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections, Correctional Officer Suicide (April 14, 2016), at amazonaws.com/static.nicic.gov/Library/033237.pdf. In 2019, a Massachusetts commission reported that 16 COs committed suicide from 2010-2015; the commission recommended better staffing levels, counseling, and efforts to identify officers who may harm themselves. A Special Commission to Study the Prevention of Suicide Among Correctional Officers of Massachusetts.

3.Norfolk County jail houses an average daily population of 441; it was designed for a population of 302, Prison Rape Elimination Audit Report, October 21, 2018, at norfolksheriff.com/content/3-publicinfo/1-prea/2018audit.pdf

4.Over half (52%) of 18-24 year olds incarcerated in Massachusetts jails are re-incarcerated within 3 years; this is higher than the overall rate of 44% for re-incarceration within 3 years; younger people have longer stays in jail, making them the most costly group of recidivists. The Council of State Governments Justice Center, Massachusetts Criminal Justice Review (July 12, 2016) available at massinc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/MA-Interim-Report-3-Slide-Deck.pdf; Intensive reentry programs designed expressly for young adults drastically reduce recidivism. at utecinc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/UTEC-Outcomes-and-Impact-Report-FY2017.pdf

5. A private, for-profit company provides telephone services for inmates in Massachusetts jails; inmates pay 36 cents per minute with a portion of the fee going to the private company and a portion going to the jail. A bill filed in the Massachusetts Senate would make prison phone calls free in Massachusetts. Sarah Betancourt, Families want to end prison phone call charges, Commonwealth (October 22, 2019).


6. Twenty one percent of sentenced people in state prisons and local jails are incarcerated for crimes committed to obtain drugs or money for drugs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Drug Use, Dependence, and Abuse Among State Prisoners and Jail Inmates, 2007-2009 at bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/dudaspji0709.pdf ; the opioid-related overdose death rate is 120 times higher for people released from Massachusetts prisons and jails than for the rest of the population. Kimberly Sue, Getting Wrecked: Women, Incarceration, and the American Opioid Crisis (2019) p. 134.

7. Among male inmates in Massachusetts in 2017, 31% were open mental health cases, 7% had a serious mental illness (SMI), and 22% were on psychotropic medication as of 12/31/2017; among women, 79% were open mental health cases, 12% had a serious mental illness (SMI), and 55% were on psychotropic medication. Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Prison Population Trends 2017 at mass.gov/files/documents/2018/09/28/PrisonPopTrends_2017_Final.pdf\

8. Inmates who participate in correctional education programs have 43 percent lower odds of returning to prison than those

who do not. Rand Corporation and Bureau of Justice Assistance, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education (August 21, 2013) available at https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html

9. In Massachusetts prisons, 42% of men and 29% of women have less than a 9th grade reading level; 44% of men and 34% of women have less than a 6th grade math level, Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Prison Population Trends 2017


10. Every $1 spent on prison education saves taxpayers $5 due to reduced recidivism, Rand Corporation and Bureau of Justice Assistance, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education (August 21, 2013) available at

https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html; Education and program services comprised 3.1 percent of spending for Massachusetts sheriffs’ departments in FY 2017, Ben Forman and Michael Widmer, Revisiting Correctional Expenditure Trends in Massachusetts, MassINC (May 21, 2018) at massinc.org/research/revisiting-correctional-expenditure-trends-n-massachusetts/; in Massachusetts, there is a 3,000 person waitlist for the Boston Prison Education Project which provides inmates with college level classes. Massachusetts FY 2018 Department of Corrections budget was $600 million, with only $250,000 for reentry programs. Kimberly Sue, Getting Wrecked: Women, Incarceration, and the American Opioid Crisis (2019) p. 161.


11. According to The Literacy Project Foundation, 3 out of 5 inmates in US prisons can’t read. literacyprojectfoundation.org/; Charities like the Prison Book Program distribute reading material to prisons across the county; in 2019 the program mailed almost 30,000 books to inmates. prisonbookprogram.org/

12. It costs $70K per year to house an inmate in the Norfolk County Jail; correctional spending in Massachusetts has exceeded correctional budgets in every fiscal year since 2011, Ben Forman and Michael Widmer, Revisiting Correctional Expenditure Trends in Massachusetts, MassINC (May 21, 2018) at massinc.org/research/revisiting-correctional-expenditure-trends-in-massachusetts/; In FY 2016 Norfolk County spent $7376 per inmate on health services, the third highest amount among the 13 jails in the Commonwealth. Ben Forman and

Michael Widmer, Getting Tough on Spending, An examination of correctional spending in Massachusetts, MassINC (May 2017) at massinc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Getting-Tough-on-Spending-1.pdf

  • Review and improve intake procedures and improve training for intake and classification staff so that inmate medical and health information is obtained in a timely fashion, avoiding interruptions in treatment.

    • Implement a comprehensive infectious disease screening program to identify COVID-19 and other infections before assigning inmate housing

    • Use CDC guidelines on physical separation to create a quarantine area to separate both new and current inmates who have a contagious disease

  • Convene a task force of medical and public health experts to review facilities and procedures to identify and correct potential opportunities for disease transmission in the jail

    • Analyze data about COVID-19 in US prisons and jails to understand transmission vectors in the prison setting

    • Review inmate housing logistics and personal care protocols to find opportunities to reduce opportunities for transmissibility   

    • Evaluate the need for PPE use by correctional officers and inmates

    • Create a protocol to screen correctional officers and other staff for infectious diseases

    • Train officers to flag potential symptoms of infection and alert medical staff

    • Review cleaning protocols

    • Use medical advice to create a public health emergency plan to implement during public health emergencies

  • Respect the professionalism of the hardworking correctional officers by creating an environment that ensures their safety, health and wellness and offers opportunities for top-notch, continuing training and education 

  • Mandate diversity and inclusion and implicit bias training for everyone employed at the jail

  • Build a competent management team who will work collaboratively and who will be evaluated and held accountable with clear performance metrics

  • Advance diversity among Sheriff Office staff and corrections officers by actively recruiting people of color 

  • Create a workplace where expectations are communicated, performance is rewarded, and rules are enforced fairly

  • Address inmate overcrowding issues and officer to prisoner ratios to create a better environment for inmates and staff.

  • End the unequal treatment of women inmates, currently housed in difficult conditions at Suffolk County jail

  • Address the different needs of young adult inmates aged 18 to 25, whose brains have not fully developed, by separating them from the general population in order to provide age-appropriate training and services

  • Conduct a comprehensive review of protocols for sanctions, including segregation, following rules infractions by inmates

  • Create a process for inmates to file requests for review of any treatment that is perceived to be discriminatory based on race, gender or sexual orientation

  • Foster healthy connections to families and the community by eliminating highly inflated charges for phone calls and improving access to telephones.

  • Treat substance use disorder among inmates with high quality care by creating partnerships with the best outside program providers.

  • Treat alcohol use disorder among inmates with high quality care by creating partnerships with the best outside program providers.

  • Treat mental health conditions among inmates with high quality care by creating partnerships with the best outside program providers.

  • Create peer counseling and mentoring programs with community groups to create a bridge to the outside world

  • Partner with trade unions to create an apprenticeship feeder program in which the union provides skills training to inmates during incarceration and places those who complete training in apprenticeships immediately upon their release.

  • Enable inmates to earn credit for community service work to defray court fees in order to encourage compliance with court obligations after incarceration.

  • Help inmates prepare for and take the GED.

  • Partner with educational institutions to provide access to classes for inmates and staff.

  • Improve access to reading material.

  • Explore opportunities to continue some benefits, including substance use disorder treatment and behavioral healthcare, during incarceration by working with Mass Health, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and other government and non-government health and welfare benefits providers; advocate for legislative reforms to provide continuation of benefits that support treatment for substance use disorder and mental health during incarceration.

Bill Phelan


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