In an effort to cut the number of released convicts who return to jail, Massachusettts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey proposed yesterday to require post-prison supervision for all convicted felons in Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reports. Every released inmate would be assigned to a parole or probation officer and would receive job training, access to drug treatment programs, housing assistance, and other services designed to help their transition back into society. About 20,000 prisoners are released in Massachusetts every year; 40 percent of them leave prison with no supervision. “One trip to jail should be enough,” Healey said. “We need to make sure the money we spend on incarceration here in Massachusetts not only punishes crime, but also stops crime from happening in the future.”
The bill is part of Gov. Mitt Romney’s attempt to change the criminal justice system, an effort spearheaded by Healey, who did research in the field before she entered politics. Criminal justice specialists say it represents a current trend in prison reform: not just ensuring that people serve their full sentences, but giving them support when they get out. “It’s the pendulum swinging back and forth,” said Peggy Burke of the Center for Effective Public Policy, a Maryland-based think tank. “We have spent so much effort on incarceration, and people thought that was going to solve the problem.” Healey said the proposal could save money in the long run. It costs $43,000 per year to keep one person in prison, she said, so reducing recidivism by 1 percent would save $1 million per year. Maureen Walsh, chairwoman of the state Parole Board, said the bill would put Massachusetts in line with other states that have adopted post-release supervision requirements. ”Massachusetts is in a minority of states that don’t have this [legislation] in place,” she said.