Community Wellness Alternative to Incarceration
Attention: Governor Deval Patrick, Executive Office of Public Safety, County Sheriffs and the Massachusetts Legislature We, the undersigned members of the community, your constituency, urge you to cease spending the $550 million bond revenue to build and expand jails in Massachusetts and instead to (1) fund a JusticeHome pilot project for women convicted of drug offenses to remain in their homes with their children and receive wrap-around services, including substance abuse treatment and education/skills training, in lieu of serving their sentences in a prison or jail and; (2) support legislation to provide alternatives to incarceration for primary caregivers of dependent children. We also urge you to engage the community in open dialogue about how this money has already been spent and what else is planned for it. Here's why it's important: Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, has planned, with the legislatures approval, a $550 Million bond revenue allocation to build and expand county jails. This decision has been made completely closed off to public opinion and without input from advocates for harm reduction and evidence based alternatives to incarceration. Expansion to jails in Chicopee and Billerica have already begun. Most women serving county jail sentences are non-violent offenders and victims themselves of domestic violence, sexual assault and addiction related illnesses. They do not need more jail beds. They need help and healing from within their communities where they can effectively address their issues and remain connected to their children and families. More than $120 million each year will be needed to operate new prisons and jails. (MA already spends more than 1 billion a year for jails and prisons.) The tens of millions will come from the Commonwealth's yearly operating budget and force more cuts to schools, social services, libraries and public transportation. Our legislators and the Governor need to shift their priorities away from longer sentences and more prisons and jails and redirect money to alternatives to incarceration including bail reform, intensive community-based drug and alcohol treatment, job training and job creation and strengthening our schools to end the school to prison pipeline. What is needed is transparency from government and input from taxpayers and the communities most impacted. We say NO to $550 million to build more jails and YES to creating proven effective, community wellness alternatives to incarceration.