Criminal justice advocates favor MA House prison moratorium plan

BOSTON — Warning that the Senate’s approach “falls short” of curbing the expansion of jails and prisons, a wide range of criminal justice reform and civil rights advocates are urging legislative negotiators to adopt the House’s version of a moratorium on the construction of correctional facilities.

Representatives from 75 groups signed a June 30 letter to lawmakers describing the House proposal as a stronger, more impactful temporary ban that would give Massachusetts “a window of time” to implement additional law enforcement reform measures. criminal justice.

They criticized the Senate’s decision to provide exceptions to the five-year moratorium that would allow public agencies to convert, renovate or repair an inactive correctional facility to transfer incarcerated persons from a jail or prison that is closing or requires emergency repairs.

“Senate language falls short of the necessary protections to prevent any expansion of jails and prisons, even temporarily,” the lawyers wrote. “The exceptions embedded in the Senate wording are overbroad and undermine the intent of the legislation by explicitly allowing facility expansion. The Senate wording also does not limit the construction of prisons in any way. By contrast, the language of the House authorizes all necessary repairs while still preventing the building and expansion of new jails and jails.”

Groups that have signed the letter include Families for Justice as Healing, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Jane Doe Inc. and Act on Mass.

Both legislative branches have included language imposing a five-year pause on building correctional facilities in their versions of a roughly $5 billion General Government Bond Bill that would fund major investments in correctional facilities. government buildings, public higher education campuses, the judiciary and other public sector infrastructure.

MPs in the Baker administration warned that the wording of the moratorium would limit their ability to “respond to the changing demands of the prison population” amid a period of declining incarceration.

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