Fifty-Three Organizations Call on Commission to Demand Accountability of DOC and Sheriffs for Their $1.3 Billion Budget

Fifty-Three Organizations Call on Commission to Demand Accountability of DOC and Sheriffs for Their $1.3 Billion Budget


BOSTON – January 12, 2022 – Fifty-three organizations submitted joint testimony calling for transparency, accountability, and oversight of $1.3 billion in spending on prisons and jails today to the Special Commission on Department of Correction and Sheriffs’ Department Funding, stating, “[We] believe the Commission can only advance the public interest if its recommendations on spending for the Department of Correction (DOC) and Sheriffs’ Departments are backed up by robust independent oversight mechanisms that provide transparency and accountability to Commonwealth residents.”

The Massachusetts Legislature created the Commission to study and make recommendations about the budgets for the state DOC and Sheriffs’ Departments, which run the state prison and county jails respectively. To date, the Commission has not focused on one of its key charges, identifying “potential ways to increase efficiencies and reduce fixed costs.”

Further, the Commission has withheld from the public all but the executive summary of the analysis it arranged for the National Institute on Corrections to provide on staffing, casting a cloud of skepticism over any recommendations that claim to draw on that analysis. “Security staffing is the largest source of correctional spending,” the organizations write, “However, while the number of incarcerated people is consistently decreasing, it appears that there is no intention to decrease staffing accordingly.

The joint testimony emphasizes that while there is little evidence that high levels of incarceration increase public safety, there are numerous examples of “high fiscal and human costs”, including  medical neglect, brutality perpetrated by employees upon incarcerated people, violations of constitutional rights, and impunity. 

Following decades of mass incarceration without recognizing and addressing poverty and structural racism as primary drivers of harm in the community, the joint testimony calls for reallocation of funds to community-based care systems, which are proven to be effective in reducing violence and increasing public health and safety.

The Commission is expected to file a report with the Legislature as soon as the end of the month. The 53 signatories want to see their recommendations reflected in the report and in future budget allocations made by the Legislature.
All testimony submitted by the public can be found on the Commission’s website.