For the longest time, Walpole State prison was known as one of the worst prisons on the east coast to serve time at. At one point in history, there were 18 murders a year there, that’s not including the beatings, serious assaults with a weapon, and other violent incidents.
MCI-Cedar Junction in Walpole, one of the state’s oldest correctional facilities, is expected to close its doors in the coming months, according to state officials.
A two-year, phased plan to “suspend housing operations” at the maximum-security prison, which is now running at 68 percent full with approximately 525 inmates, was revealed on Thursday by the Department of Correction.
The administration cited “decreased housing needs and the aging facility’s exorbitant maintenance costs.” as reasons for the closure. Despite the fact that the prison first opened its doors in 1955, officials have found roughly $30 million in needed repairs, including electrical renovations that would cost an estimated $22 million.
State Prison Population
As the state’s prison population has dropped to its lowest level in 35 years, the decision “aligns with the Department’s commitment to eliminate restrictive housing and reform its approach to discipline,” according to the agency, which stated that it had been examining cost-saving opportunities for the past several months.
The first part of the proposal will begin in 60 to 90 days with the move of the reception and diagnostic center to Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center (SBCC) in Lancaster, where it will remain for 60 to 90 days. Men who have just been released from prison are screened for security classification at the center before being sent to the appropriate facility.
Aside from that, two units are housed at the prison for what the agency refers to as “most serious security concerns” — the Department Disciplinary Unit (DDU) and the Behavioral Management Unit (BMU). In accordance with current plans, those two units will continue to operate until 2024 “while the Department identifies a suitable alternative for each population’s very specific programming, services, and security needs.”
Within phase two, convicts now housed in the BMU will be transferred to units in other state correctional facilities. After that, the department will dissolve the DDU and relocate inmates, a strategy that the Department of Corrections says is consistent with its ongoing three-year plan to change the department’s approach to disciplinary action.
Massachusetts’ incarceration rate, according to yearly Vera Institute for Justice reports published from 2017 to 2020, was the lowest in the nation, “decreasing by over 2,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a record low of nearly 6,000 incarcerated people.” according to the organization.
Commission Chair Carol Mici said in a statement released Thursday afternoon that the Department of Corrections is committed to stewarding taxpayer monies wisely and executing its rehabilitation-focused mission. “This decision, and the subsequent consolidation of resources across fewer locations, allows us to eliminate redundancies and deepen our investments in programming, staffing, and services.”
Terrence Reidy, Secretary of Public Safety and Security, stated that effective reentry programs and criminal justice reforms had a role in the facility selection process.
Providing at-risk persons with pathways to positive life choices, developing new re-entry services, and empowering returning citizens to rebuild their lives in meaningful ways were all part of the process that resulted in the lowest level of incarceration in decades, according to Reidy. “It also allows us to consolidate the number of operational facilities and renew our focus on delivering effective services to women and men in DOC’s care.” said the department.
Source: NBC Boston