Massachusetts Prisons, Jails Crowded; Tough Sentencing Blamed


To make room for more inmates, the Norfolk County, Ma., jail's gymnasium has been transformed into a dormitory and is filled with rows of skinny triple-bunk beds. Inmates have also had to sleep on the floor in temporary plastic beds known as “canoes,” reports the Boston Globe. Every prison and jail in Southeastern Massachusetts is operating over its capacity, and overcrowding is an issue facing every correctional institution in the state. Correction officials are bracing for an even bigger shortage of beds in the coming years as more prisoners arrive and more stay behind bars longer, due to tougher mandatory minimum-sentencing laws. The state Department of Correction projects the incarcerated population will grow from about 11,892 in 2011 to 14,753 by 2019.

In Bridgewater, the Old Colony Correctional Center was built to house 480 medium-security inmates but houses 809. At the Bristol County Jail and House of Correction in Dartmouth, every cell is double-bunked, and beds have taken over the gymnasium there, too, as the occupancy rate has skyrocketed to 384 percent. “It's getting steadily worse,” said Leslie Walker of Prisoners' Legal Services, a Boston-based advocacy group. “I don't recall the numbers ever being this high.”

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