by Steve O'Neill
Jobs NOT Jails Petition Drive
5 Pleasant Street, 3rd Fl
Worcester, MA 01609
The Patrick Administration has estimated that, if current criminal justice policies are not changed dramatically, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will have to spend $2 billion in the next seven years, to build 10,000 new prison units, as well as $150 million more each year to fill them. Massachusetts already has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world - on par with French Guiana and Kazakhstan. There are so few opportunities, and so many barriers to successful re-entry, that most (>60%) of prisoners released from DYS, county jails, and prison recidivate within 3 years.
Meanwhile, we are sliding quickly away from a full-employment economy. Businesses are shedding entry-level and middle-class jobs at an alarming rate, as many functions such as check-out clerk and warehouse operator are automated. Massachusetts has lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs just in the last six years.
Other states - including New York, Washington and Texas - have overhauled their criminal justice systems using practices that are proven effective, and so reduced their prison populations that they have closed prisons, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Massachusetts can do the same, by ending practices that are proven ineffective, and implementing the best of what other states have already proven can work. For example:
- Ending mandatory minimum drug sentences;
- Diversion of low-level drug offenders to treatment even before trial;
- Eliminating counter-productive "collateral sanctions" such as an automatic driver's license suspension for drug offenses, and high fees for probation, parole, court costs, and telephone charges;
- Reforming the systems of parole and probation;
- Bail reform;
- Restoring educational programs including vocational education as well as college-level courses in prisons and jails;
Many of these proposals are on the table in Massachusetts, and grassroots organizations are working to win each of these vital reforms. Click here for a printout of these proposals.
Together, we are building the infrastructure to engage thousands of people in a campaign to stop $2 billion of prison construction, and re-direct those funds into creating good jobs for people in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods.
Those interested in local coordination to support this legislation are asked to contact Mike Rich, Restorative Justice Ministry Team Chair.
For general information visit the EPOCA website.
Endorsed by the Restorative Justice Ministry Team of the MA Conference, UCC