Governor Deval Patrick's Budget Recommendation - House 2 Fiscal Year 2011

Governor's Budget Recommendation FY 2011

Reforming Community Supervision

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Governor Patrick    FY2011 House 2 Budget Recommendation:
    Issues in Brief

    Deval L. Patrick, Governor
    Timothy P. Murray, Lt. Governor


Incarceration-related costs are placing strain on state budgets across the country and Massachusetts is no exception. On an annual basis, the Commonwealth spends approximately $47,000 per offender compared to approximately $10,000 per K-12 student. State funding for the Department of Corrections (DOC) has increased by $175 million since 2002, from $343 million in fiscal year 2002 to $518 million in fiscal year 2009, a 51% increase. DOC currently houses over 11,300 inmates and is at 146% capacity, with projected increases in the population of 2.5% for the next 10 years.

Efforts to reduce recidivism (repeat criminal activity) and improve public safety have been the focus of the Administration’s criminal justice strategy.  The anti-crime package filed by the Governor and passed by the Senate includes Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform, sentencing reform and tough new mandatory post-release supervision requirements. These initiatives will:

  • make our communities safer;
  • improve the re-entry of ex offenders into society;
  • reduce escalating prison costs; and
  • generate new revenue through expanded use of CORI.

The Governor proposes the additional following reforms in this budget:

  • Unify offender supervision by consolidating the parole and probation systems under the Executive Branch. The Governor proposes to create the Department of Community Supervision to coordinate parole and probation services in the most comprehensive and cost-efficient manner
  • Modify current laws to increase the use of electronic monitoring and home confinement, where appropriate, for those awaiting trial and not convicted of any crimes, to reduce the reliance on confinement in costly and overcrowded prisons (this proposal is already included in the package passed by the Senate); and,
  • Increase the use of supervision as a re-entry tool for those nearing release from prison.

Approximately 95 percent of prisoners nationwide are eventually released back into society. This unified approach will improve public safety by reducing rates of recidivism and save millions of dollars in incarceration costs.

Benefits of Offender Supervision

Offender supervision can range from daily meetings with a parole or probation officer to electronic bracelet monitoring to 24-hour GPS monitoring.  Offender supervision includes a comprehensive case plan that:

  • Fosters stability in the community;
  • Ensures monitoring via a case officer and tools such as electronic bracelets or GPS;
  • Increases accountability through sanctions, including re-incarceration for the most serious violations of release conditions; and
  • Offers re-entry services, such as job training, substance abuse treatment and education that can turn ex-offenders into working and productive members of society. 

A wide variety of research confirms the public safety benefits of this approach.  Most recently, the Parole Board conducted a study of inmates released in 2006 which tracked outcomes at 18 months and 36 months. It concluded that individuals who were returned to the community after being released from state and county correctional institutions without parole supervision were twice as likely to be re-incarcerated after 18 months than those who had completed their term of parole supervision that same year.  [ Massachusetts Parole Board (2009).  Research Brief - A Comparison of Recidivism Rates For Offenders Discharging from an Institution versus Parole Supervision in 2006. ]

Through the mandatory supervision of all inmates, whether inmates complete sentences or are granted discretionary parole, the Commonwealth will:

  • Improve public safety by reducing the rate of new crimes committed by released offenders;
  • Increase opportunities for offenders to more effectively transition to the community with strong monitoring, accountability, and support, in appropriate situations;
  • Mitigate prison overcrowding and reduce the need for the Commonwealth to build new facilities, at a cost of $60-$80 million each; and
  • Reduce the threat of a federal lawsuit as experienced in other states, such as California, resulting in millions of dollars in settlements and federally imposed sanctions (e.g. early release of inmates).

Increasing Use of Electronic Monitoring for Those Awaiting Trial

The Governor’s proposal to safely supervise individuals awaiting trial is an example of the cost benefits of community supervision. There are approximately 5,200 individuals incarcerated in state prisons and county jails awaiting trial. A majority of these individuals should stay in prison due to the nature of the charges and flight risk. However, approximately 40% of these detainees can be placed on a system of electronic monitoring and home confinement. This shift could save between $13 and $15 million across the Commonwealth, even after accounting for the cost of the system.

Benefits of Unification

Unification of probation and parole services under the Executive Branch and the consolidation of all supervision of offenders into the Department of Community Supervision under the Executive Branch will create a seamless continuum of services, decrease criminal activity and victimization, and reverse the extraordinary escalation of costs associated with duplication and inefficient administration of existing services within probation.  This will improve public safety, reduce existing costs and avoid anticipated expenses associated with the growing prison population. 

The consolidation of community supervision into one coherent organization, with shared services and information, will be more efficient, accountable and less costly to administer.  Furthermore, having all correctional, supervision and re-entry responsibilities fall under the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security in the Executive branch (as it is in the vast majority of states) creates a seamless system of public safety. First-time and low-risk offenders would continue to be supervised, as they are now, in the community as an alternative to incarceration (traditional probation). Others will be sentenced to serve terms in the county or state correctional facilities and released through discretionary parole or receive mandatory supervision at the end of their sentence to serve terms of supervision in the community post-prison under the auspices of one oversight administration. This model also creates increased transparency and accountability to the public and Legislature. 

The fragmented structure of the existing criminal justice system in Massachusetts has been highlighted as a central factor in the denial of several federal grants, including the Second Chance Act Prison Re-entry Initiative and the Transition from Prison to Community.  This has resulted in the potential loss of millions of federal grant dollars and technical assistance.

Cost savings could be realized in several areas, including merging and consolidating the 21 community correction centers and 8 parole regional re-entry centers that duplicate services. To realize savings while improving services, the Commonwealth can:

  • Cancel and merge leases, reducing infrastructure costs;
  • Consolidate and reduce underutilized (Community Correction Center) services;
  • Eliminate the instances of dual supervision by two different agencies;
  • Streamline the multiple drug testing contracts utilized by different agencies; and
  • Better utilize the Community Service program, a program that puts indigent ex offenders to work. 

These reforms are long overdue.  As far back as 2002, MassInc noted in its report From Cell to Street that Massachusetts had a bifurcated system that was inefficient and redundant and concluded that a single agency should have both the authority and responsibility to supervise released inmates. The report recommends that agency should be under the Executive Branch, as it is in most states.  [ Piehl, Anne (2002). From Cell to Street: A Plan to Supervise Inmates After Release. Boston: MassInc. (The Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth). ]


These proposed reforms incorporate best practices and well-documented research in the field of criminal justice. Current practice is leading to unacceptable recidivism rates and overcrowded prisons. The Corrections Master Plan commissioned by the administration projects an inmate bed shortage of 8,000 by 2020.  Each cell costs $100,000 to build.  Thus, without any changes to reverse current trends, capital costs to build facilities to meet this demand will skyrocket towards $800,000,000.  If the state commits those kinds of resources to this problem, its ability to meet other critical missions and services will be eliminated or severely compromised.

Prepared by Palak Shah, Executive Office for Administration and Finance ·
For more information contact: (617) 727-2040

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