Study: State correctional services budget increases as prison population goes down

New survey shows daily population has dropped 12% since 2011

David Tanklefsky
May 16, 2017 - 1:14 pm

Massachusetts' prison population is decreasing even as the budget for its correctional facilities continues to increase, according to a new study released Tuesday by public policy think tank MassInc.

The study found that while the average daily population in state correctional facilities has dropped by 12% in the last five years, correctional budgets have increased by 18%. The fiscal year 2016 budget for correctional facilities and county sheriff departments has jumped to $1.2 billion.

With a decreasing prison population but a soaring budget, where is all the money going? According to the study, most of the additional spending is going to increased wages for employees and new hiring. That accounted for 84% of the growth in spending since 2011.

Out of total Department of Correction expenditures, spending that goes toward programs for inmates dropped from three percent to 2.7, according to MassInc.

The study also found widespread and growing disparities in spending across various counties and agencies. The average inmate population among sheriffs departments dropped by 16% while at the same time the number of total employees increased by five percent. At the DOC level, an eight percent drop in inmate population was followed by a four percent decrease in total employees.

The report also indicates the increase in budget appropriation for corrections spending has far outpaced other areas. Since fiscal year 2011, the budget appropriation spending for corrections has risen by 34%. By comparison, education and student aid has increased by only 11% with MBTA spending at just eight percent.

MassInc says the numbers indicate the need for budget-makers to figure out ways to move resources from the correctional system to community-based treatment. It's calling for a series of recommendations including creating a mechanism for legislators to move resources from the justice system to behavoral health services.

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