Governor Deval Patrick's Budget Recommendation - House 1 Fiscal Year 2014

Sheriff Funding Review

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Governor Patrick    FY 2014 Budget Recommendation:
    Issues in Brief

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


In recognition of the integral part that the Sheriffs play in the criminal justice system and especially in inmates’ re-entry into the community, Governor Patrick has charged his new Secretaries, Andrea Cabral of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) and Glen Shor of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance (EOAF) in working with Sheriffs to improve Sheriffs’ outdated funding structure, identify savings from sentencing reform, determine ways to best use existing capacity to prevent overbuilding, and measure and improve reentry outcomes for inmates. Secretary Cabral’s experience as the Suffolk County Sheriff for over ten years will be valuable to pursue this endeavor. The Secretaries will provide recommendations in July of 2013.

Sheriffs’ Funding

Sheriffs oversee the Jails which hold pre-trial detainees and Houses of Correction (HOCs) which hold inmates serving sentences of two and a half years or less.  In 2009, the final seven Sheriffs’ offices transitioned from their county budgets to the state system and began receiving annual budgetary appropriations in separate line items.  Funding for the Sheriffs has not been consistent, and since the transition in 2009, the Sheriffs have required supplemental funding on a yearly basis to support their ongoing budget operations. The Sheriffs cannot continue running their offices and providing the Commonwealth with appropriate public safety if they cannot rely on an adequate annual budget appropriation determined at the beginning of each year. 

Since the transition, several Sheriffs’ budgets have relied heavily on revenue from the federal government for housing federal inmates. Like revenue from the deeds excise tax, which seven Sheriffs’ Offices relied prior to transition, this funding source is not stable.  Sheriffs who fail to secure the full budgeted amount of revenue are unable to meet all their budget obligations at the fiscal year’s end. In addition to the budget consequences, there are significant impacts to the correction system’s capacity with federal detainees occupying bed space at the Houses of Correction that could be used by Department of Correction (DOC) state inmates or other county inmates to help relieve overcrowding.

To fully understand the Sheriff’s budget and cost drivers, the Massachusetts Sheriff Association (MSA) has filed an annual cost per inmate report.  This analysis has been a collaborative effort between the Sheriffs, the MSA, and EOAF.  This report has shown that the major cost drivers for Sheriffs facilities are staffing, transportation, and health care cost.  In addition, less populated counties tended to have higher per inmate costs because they are unable to scale their operational costs in an efficient manner.

This report also identifies public safety services that Sheriffs provide to their local cities and town.  The types of services provided varies between Sheriffs and include regional lock up units, 911 call centers, day camps, K-9 units, investigative units, and others.  Sheriffs are well positioned to provide regionalized services to their local communities and can help reduce cost and maximize efficiencies. However, this analysis showed that funding for these services was inconsistent. While some charged their local communities a fee to perform these services, others used state funding to support these efforts.

Issues of Capacity and Sentencing Reform

Across our corrections system, capacity remains a significant concern.  Many facilities are over capacity while others have available space, largely due to security classifications which drive decisions about where and with whom inmates and pre-trial detainees can be housed.  In 2011, the Corrections Master Plan identified that the Commonwealth would need to invest $1.3 B to $2.3 B to address corrections capacity needs, unless the General Court passed sentencing reform legislation.  In 2012, Governor Patrick signed sentencing reform legislation that reduces mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes and provides increased opportunities for earned “good time,” ultimately decreasing the bed need. Through these measures, the Commonwealth will alleviate overcrowding and save billions of dollars by reducing the need for future construction projects.

To utilize existing facilities efficiently, the Commonwealth must create a fluid housing and funding system where dollars can follow inmates, and facilities are funded at the appropriate and adequate levels.  Currently, when an inmate is transferred from DOC to a Sheriff facility or vice versa, the additional cost is not accounted for. In FY 2012 and FY 2013, the Administration launched a pilot program with the Hampden County Sheriff to transition DOC inmates back into the community at the end of their sentences by stepping them down into HOCs, where they are mandated to participate in re-entry programs designed to build life skills and secure post-release employment and housing.  Based on the success of the Hampden County pilot, the Administration plans to expand this practice and work with the Sheriffs to develop this program.

Title: Breaking the Cycle of Recidivism - Description: The cycle of recidivism is as follows: community members commit a crime, then are arrested, jailed, brought to trial, and sent to a House of Correction if sentenced.  Once released, they reenter the community, and often will commit further offenses, reentering the criminal justice system (called recidivism).  With reentry programming, however, the Commonwealth and its Sheriffs can help offenders become productive community members upon reentry.

Re-entry and Recidivism

Investing in inmate programming like GED classes, vocational training, and job skills training helps ex-offenders re-enter society in a productive way. If successful, programing can provide savings for the Commonwealth by reducing recidivism.  Many Sheriffs have effective re-entry programs and have measured their outcomes internally, but there is currently no coordination in funding levels, types of programming, or outcome measures. The Administration is currently working with national organizations to improve the way we assess the impact of these services through recidivism data or program evaluation and determine best practices.  Several Sheriffs have been recognized nationally for their reentry initiatives and we will also rely on their expertise as the EOPSS develops a Strategic Statewide Plan on Re-entry. 

Prepared by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance ·
For more information email: (617) 727-2040

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