MCI Cedar Junction to close, a milestone reflecting falling crime rates, sentencing reform

MCI Cedar Junction to close, a milestone reflecting falling crime rates, sentencing reform

The Boston Globe
By Laura Crimaldi and Travis Andersen
April 7, 2022

With the state’s inmate population at a 35-year low, state officials on Thursday announced plans to shut down the maximum-security prison in Walpole over the next two years, citing the high cost of repairing the facility and a statewide effort to phase out solitary confinement.

The closure marked a milestone for longstanding efforts to reduce incarceration rates,from reforms to the criminal justice system to programs to reduce recidivism. Anthony Benedetti, chief counsel for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, said the closure provided “more evidence that criminal justice reform is both necessary and effective. ‘

“Crime rates are decreasing, and prison populations are falling. That is due to years of hard work and an overarching recognition that we cannot jail our way to a safer society,” Benedetti said. “As we move forward, I hope we let existing criminal justice reforms work and continue to follow the evidence: that tough-on-crime policies do nothing but hurt the community and our neighbors.”

The state Department of Correction said in a news release that the prison, known as MCI-Cedar Junction, is operating at 68 percent of capacity, housing about 525 men. Built in 1955, it is one of the state’s oldest correctional facilities and requires nearly $30 million in repairs, officials said.

As part of the process, the state will close the prison’s Department Disciplinary Unit, an isolation ward in which some inmates are locked up for more than 22 hours per day. Prisoners confined there will be relocated and a new site will be found for the Behavioral Management Unit, another ward for inmates who pose “the most serious security concerns.”

Elizabeth Matos, executive director at Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, expressed concerns about Souza-Baranowski becoming the new location of the prisoner intake process.

“It’s not appropriate,” she said. “Souza is a maximum-security facility.” A medium-security prison like MCI-Shirley, Matos said, would be a more suitable setting for processing prisoners.

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