Incarceration rates drop as Walpole maximum-security prison closes

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The Department of Corrections said the prison would close over the course of two years.

MCI – Deodar Junction. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC) announced Thursday That he would close the MCI-Cedar Junction, a maximum security prison in Walpole.

The process will take two years and three phases, during which prisoners will be moved to other facilities, the DOC said in a news release.

According to the DoC, Cedar Junction is one of the state prisons with the lowest number of prisoners in the last 35 years, and currently has 525 inmates, operating at 68% capacity.

Opened in 1955, this prison is one of the oldest prisons in the state and has a history that housed several serial killers. The most famous prisoner of MCI-Cedar Junction was Albert DiSalvootherwise known as the “Greeley Tribune Stranglers” who murdered at least 11 women between 1962 and 1964. He was murdered inside the prison in 1973.

DOC said it conducted an agency-wide review to find opportunities to increase efficiency and save costs. It said the decision to close Cedar Junction was made after a thorough assessment of the decreased needs of prison housing and the high maintenance cost of the aging facility.

The DOC said that after the review, it is estimated that the cost of bringing the prison up to code would be $30 million.

The department said the decision to close the prison also aligns with the goal of eliminating restrictive housing and improving “its approach to discipline.”

“The Baker-Polito administration has worked closely with the legislature, community partners and advocates to create successful re-entry programs and implement meaningful reforms in criminal justice,” said Terrence Reedy, Secretary of Public Safety and Security, in a news release. can go.”

“The fruits of that work – the lowest level of incarceration in decades – by providing at-risk individuals with avenues to positive life choices, creating new re-entry services, and empowering returning citizens to rebuild their lives in meaningful ways.” This allows us to consolidate the number of operational facilities and focus our attention on providing effective services to the women and men in the care of DOC.

Massachusetts has been reducing its prison population for several years. In reports for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, the DOC said, the Vera Institute for Justice found that Massachusetts’ incarceration rate was among the lowest in the country.

The Massachusetts prison population also decreased by more than 2,000 people during the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOC said, resulting in a record low of less than 6,000 people.

The department said the maximum security prison serves three main functions within the DOC. First, it serves as the department’s reception and diagnostic center where newly incarcerated males are assessed for security classification and await transfer to another facility.

Secondly, the prison has a small operational workforce of less than 50 men in a moderate security setting. Third, it maintains two units for the most serious security concerns: the Department Discipline Unit (DDU) and the Behavior Management Unit (BMU).

The DOC said the first phase of the two-year shutdown would begin with the relocation of the Reception and Diagnostic Center to the Souza-Baranovsky Correctional Center (SBCC) in Lancaster. The transfer will happen within 90 days.

The DoC said that the persons currently residing at Cedar Junction are awaiting classification and will complete the normal process and will be shifted to a suitable facility.

“DOC is committed to servicing taxpayer resources responsibly and fulfilling our rehabilitation-focused mission,” DOC Commissioner Carol Mikey said in a news release.

“This decision, and subsequent consolidation of resources in fewer locations, allows us to eliminate redundancy and deepen our investments in programming, staffing and services.”

The DOC said that both BMU and DDU will continue to operate until 2024, while the department identifies a suitable alternative for each population’s specific programming, services and security needs.

During phase two, the department said, prisoners residing in BMU will be shifted to suitable units in other state facilities. In the third phase, the department will disband the DDU and transfer the prisoners.

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