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Mass. to close MCI-Concord, corrections officers and inmates to be transferred to other facilities

The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union stated that closing MCI-Concord or any other prison “will burden our already violent and dangerous prisons”

Massachusetts MCI-Concord

FILE: Corrections officers outside as Protesters drive by the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Concord protesting conditions in the state prisons concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday November 8, 2020, in Concord (Jim Michaud / MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Jim Michaud/TNS

By Rick Sobey, Chris Van Buskirk
Boston Herald

CONCORD, Mass. — State leaders have decided to close MCI-Concord, the oldest men’s prison in the Bay State, as a way to save money — while the correction officers union is slamming the closure, warning that it will “burden our already violent and dangerous prisons.”

The Gov. Maura Healey administration on Wednesday announced that the Massachusetts Department of Correction will soon conclude operations at MCI-Concord, a medium-security men’s prison.

MCI-Concord currently operates at 50% capacity, with an incarcerated population of about 300 inmates.

Following Wednesday’s announcement, the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union executive board called on state officials to “halt any plans to close Concord until a comprehensive plan is in place.”

“The Executive Board is adamantly against the closing of Concord or any other prison,” the union board said in a statement. “The Executive Board feels that the closing of MCI Concord or any other prison will burden our already violent and dangerous prisons. We are witnessing extreme and daily violence at SBCC ( Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center ) after the closing of Walpole.”

“With over three hundred inmates at Concord our classification system will undoubtedly need to reclassify many of these and other inmates state wide,” the board added. “This will potentially place higher risk inmates in lower-level facilities thus placing our officer’s safety at risk.”

Massachusetts is expected to save about $16 million a year due to the closure, Administration and Finance Secretary Matthew Gorzkowicz said Wednesday. The state will also save about $190 million in one-time upkeep costs.

The cost-savings move was taken as Healey looks to check spending as revenue growth slows down compared to the pandemic-era boom times.

Closing the prison is in line with a decrease in prison populations, Healey said Wednesday.

“It’s at the lowest point that it has been in 35 years,” Healey said. “And so this is important, not only for cost savings, the LG ( Kim Driscoll ) and I have talked for a long time about identifying state properties that we could repurpose and use for housing for other things.

Healey said her administration is “going to engage with the community” to figure out what to do with the property once the prison is shut down. But the prison does not meet “the moment for the needs that we face.”

The Massachusetts Department of Correction will transfer correctional officers and incarcerated individuals throughout this fiscal year. The transfer process is expected to be complete by this summer.

“Today, I am deeply encouraged that the Healey-Driscoll administration has decided to close MCI-Concord prison,” said State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, who serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Judiciary and the Criminal Justice Reform Caucus.

“Given the declining number of incarcerated people in state prisons, the challenges of providing modern education, programming and re-entry support to incarcerated people in aging buildings, and the state’s fiscal challenges, this is a common sense decision that strikes yet another blow in the criminal justice reform movement to end mass incarceration,” Eldridge later added.

The Department of Correction last year closed MCI-Cedar Junction ( Walpole ) prison, saving about $15 million a year in operating costs.

“The planned closure of MCI-Concord will likely save about the same amount of money, on top of avoiding new capital investments in the oldest men’s prison in Massachusetts,” Eldridge said.

He added, “With this news, I encourage the Healey-Driscoll administration and the Legislature to consider using this anticipated savings for the purposes of ‘justice reinvestment,’ investing taxpayer dollars in education, programming and re-entry services for incarcerated people and returning citizens, and in communities across Massachusetts that have often been unjustly targeted by mass incarceration and the War on Drugs.”

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