Massachusetts’ inmate population has declined, but the state is still spending more money to operate jails and prisons, mostly to pay corrections staff, according to an independent criminal justice report that questions the state’s spending priorities, the Boston Globe reports. Spending for the Department of Correction and the 14 county sheriffs’ offices outpaced inflation and rose 18 percent from 2011 to 2016, reaching $1.2 billion, according to the report by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, (MassINC), a nonpartisan think tank.
The prison population, which was at its peak in 2011, declined by 3,000 inmates, or 12 percent, in those same years. The report’s authors questioned whether the state should have been spending the savings it could have realized from the drop in the inmate population on rehabilitation programs, such as drug or mental health counseling, that might help reduce recidivism rates, and possibly result in even more savings. Instead, the state has redirected more money to raise pay for corrections officers or for new hires, accounting for 84 percent of the total growth in spending. The report’s findings are bound to become a point of discussion as Governor Charlie Baker’s administration considers a Justice Reinvestment Initiative that calls for an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system, particularly in prison release programs.