The Case against Maximum-Security Why a new maximum-security prison would be wrong for Massachusetts
The Situation in Massachusetts • The state prison system is currently over capacity by 46 percent. The overcrowding has led the Patrick administration to search for various solutions, including extending parole opportunities to more inmates, which costs the state less money than confinement and frees up more space in prison facilities, saving space and money. • However, WBZ radio recently reported that the administration is also reportedly looking into another solution to relieve overcrowding, one that proves irrational and unnecessarily costly to taxpayers of the Commonwealth: building two new prisons.
How it came to this • In late 2008, Commissioner Harold W. Clarke made Walpole State Prison a medium security receiving institution, thereby making Souza-Baranowski the state’s only maximum security facility. • With prisoners reassigned there from Walpole, double-bunking was instituted, which immediately led to logistical conflicts. • Not only did the intense overcrowding make serving everyday meals a nightmare, but the encroachments on personal space in prison cells have led to violent outbreaks between prisoners.
Clarke's been there before • As the former Director of the Nebraska State Penitentiary, Clarke previously ordered double-bunking in maximum security facilities to similar results. • Without first determining compatibility of inmates, violence ensued and he was even found to be responsible for violating the constitutional rights of the prisoners in his care by a federal court. • Now, as the current president of the American Correctional Association (an apparent conflict of interest) and former consultant with the National Institute of Corrections, Clarke has taken actions that have been shown to be more in the interest of the prison-industrial complex than Commonwealth taxpayers, the overall safety of the community, or general human rights.
The Alternative: Re-open Minimums • In order to relieve overcrowding, Commissioner Clarke had legitimate alternatives that would not only have cost taxpayers less money, but would have provided inmates with more chances to rehabilitate in less harsh conditions and made them less likely to re-offend upon release. Clarke could have reopened the minimum security prisons closed or made plans to build new ones. by former Governors Weld and Romney or • Minimum security prisons, as will be shown, cost less to operate than higher level facilities and are associated with lower recidivism rates. With more space in minimum security facilities, those inmates eligible for reassignment could have then been moved down from medium security facilities, thereby creating room for eligible offenders to move from overcrowded maximum security prisons.
The Costs of Maximum-Security • Maximum-security prisons cut inmates off from contact with people, the world outside their cell, and educational and redemptive opportunities, as well as often subjecting them to brutal mistreatment. • Intended to protect the public from the “worst of the worst”, they in fact increase public danger by eventually releasing hardened, embittered people without useful (non-criminal) skills; this has been shown to increase recidivism rates. • Maximum-security prisons also cost the taxpayer up to 60% more than other forms of prisons, which represents millions of dollars each year.
Conditions within the Max • Conditions within maximum and super-max prisons differ greatly from those of lower security facilities. • This difference in environment could be the factor that alters a prisoners’ mentality and behavior, but despite the popularity of “tough punishment” these changes are generally not for the best. • Yale and Chicago researchers note that higher security prisons involve:
Conditions within the Max “…less contact with the outside world…” Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
Conditions within the Max Federal facilities with increased security levels allow fewer furloughs, which can greatly help a prisoner reintegrate into society. Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
Conditions within the Max “…allow less freedom…” Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
Conditions within the Max Higher security federal facilities also allow less time outside of the cell, not only limiting a prisoners’ freedom of movement and recreation, but also their personal interactions with other human beings. Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
Conditions within the Max “…and subject inmates to far more violence.” Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
Conditions within the Max Federal prisons with minimum security labels had prisoner death rates of 0.66 per 1,000 prisoners and those with above-minimum labels had 3.54 for every 1,000 prisoners Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
Are the harsher conditions in the supermax prisons simply the result of harsher, more violent criminals being placed there? • According to former Wisconsin Secretary of Corrections Walter Dickey, this is not always the case. • He states that there are multiple reasons for which a prisoner who does not warrant placement in a maximum security facility might be sent there. Source: “Is the Use of Maximum Security Prisons Abused?” Walter Dickey. Interview with NPR. 03/08/09. http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=101602165&m=101602161
False or inaccurate factual information may be used as the basis of the transfer into a super max prison. • A prisoner may be “over-classified” and said to require a higher level of security than they may in order to fill the empty beds in the maximum security prisons and relieve crowding in the prison systems. • Prisoners who are mentally ill or difficult to manage might be “dumped” in maximum security prisons so that prison staff and wardens don’t have to deal with them. Source: “Is the Use of Maximum Security Prisons Abused?” Walter Dickey. Interview with NPR. 03/08/09. http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=101602165&m=101602161
The Mentally-Ill in Max-Security Prisons • Maximum-security prisons often end up as places to stash the mentally-ill, since mentally-ill prisoners are more prone to act up and are easier for wardens to control in maximum-security prisons. • Maximum-security conditions, however, are not ideal for treating mental illness, and there is even some evidence that suggests they can cause it. (Gawande, Atul. “Hellhole”, New Yorker March 30, 2009)
The Prevalence of Mental Illness • Lorna Rhodes, a medical anthropologist at the University of Washington, estimates that 15-25 percent of prisoners in maximum-security prisons are mentally ill.(Schwarz, Joel. “Total Confinement paints picture of life inside maximum security prisons”. UW News, Feb. 11, 2004. accessed at: http://uwnews.org/article.asp?articleid=1412) • Here in Massachusetts, the Department of Corrections estimated in 2003 that “20.85 percent of the prison population—1,999 people—have a serious mental disorder.”(National Alliance on Mental Illness “The State of Mental Health Services in Massachusetts” April 28, 2004. accessed at http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=massachusetts&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=14935)
Conditions within the Max • “I’ve watched brats turned into killers and seen sane citizens turned into violent, hard core, insane criminals, all in the name of corrections…” – Bobby Dellelo, served 40 years of a natural life sentence at Walpole State Prison
Conditions within the Max • Although most wardens agree that the tighter restrictions of super-max prisons exist to maintain control and order within the system, the harsher conditions have the potential to affect prisoners’ mentalities and actions once they are released.
The Cost to the Public: Recidivism A 2007 study by Jesse Shapiro of the University of Chicago and Seth Chen of the Yale School of Management found that federal prisoners housed in higher-security-level prisons were much more likely to reoffend than similar prisoners in lower-security facilities. Their discontinuity-based approach took advantage of the sudden jump in prison-security caused by a 1-point difference in the prisoner’s ‘security custody’ score between scores 6 and 7, and controlled for confounding variables such as length of sentence and (through the custody score) dangerousness and severity of crime committed. Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
Recidivism Quantified The sharp discontinuity represents the jump in recidivism rates in prisoners housed in prisons of higher security levels. (Shapiro/Chen 2007) Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf Graph from: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
The Impact on Crime Rates • According to a national survey of state prison wardens, a clear majority believed super-max prison conditions serve to decrease riots and escapes, but less than a quarter (24%) agreed that it deters crime in society. (CITE) • The Shapiro/Chen study suggests that if all prisoners were placed in above-minimum facilities as opposed to minimum level prisons they would be 41 percentage points more likely to be re-arrested in the year following release. Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
Why Recidivism Matters • A Department of Justice study found that 2/3s of prisoners released are rearrested within 3 years. This suggests that repeat offenders commit a high proportion of crimes and thus increasing the recidivism rate by housing prisoners in maximum-security prisons will give a sizable bump to the crime rate. • Shapiro and Chen found that higher-security-level prisons bump up recidivism up to 50%, effects which according to them “appear large enough to outweigh deterrence and drive a net increase in crime should prison conditions worsen.” (Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Criminal Offender Statistics”.accessed at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/crimoff.htm) Source: Chen, Keith and Jesse Shapiro. “Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Continuity Based Approach.” University of Chicago, 2007. http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/jesse.shapiro/research/prison041607_web.pdf
The Cost to Taxpayers (Dollars per prisoner per year, from our survey of 13 states that publish this data: AR, CT, GA, KY, MA, MN, MS,NC, NE, NV, OK, RI, WI. Links on “sources” page.)
The Cost to Taxpayers, Quantified • On average in the states surveyed, a maximum-security facility cost $11,514 more per prisoner per year to operate than your average facility • This represents a 52% increase; in a typical 1,000 bed facility, this would come out to about $11.6 million dollars a year in extra operating cost • In Massachusetts, a 2004 study by the Governor’s office found that maximum-security prisons cost the state $48,000 per prisoner per year, $5,000 more than the average MA facility. Source: “Strengthening Public Safety, Increasing Accountability, and Instituting Fiscal Responsibility in the Department of Correction”(2004), p50 compared to p31, accessed at: http://www.mass.gov/Eeops/docs/eops/GovCommission_Corrections_Reform.pdf
Maximum-security Prisons cost much more than Mediums and Minimums • In those states where data on medium-security facilities was available, a maximum-security facility cost $10,996 more than a medium-security facility per prisoner year, representing a 48% increase • In those states where data on minimum-security facilities was available, a maximum-security facility cost $12,029 dollars more than a minimum-security facility per prisoner year, representing a 61% increase Source: DOC data from 13 states (see “Sources” page for links)
Construction Costs • A 2007 Harvard Kennedy School of Government presentation cited the cost of construction of a new prison in Massachusetts to be at least $100,000 per bed. • At this rate, a new 1,000-bed maximum security prison would cost at least $100 million Source: Mulligan, Robert A. Presentation at the Symposium on Incarceration and Inequality held by the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, Oct. 17, 2007. accessed at http://www.hks.harvard.edu/rappaport/downloads/b101/rappaport%2020071017.ppt
So who really suffers from Maximum-Security Prisons? • The prisoner, who endures harsh conditions and mistreatment without opportunities to learn skills and redeem himself. • The public, who suffers from increased recidivism by the hardened, embittered individuals maximum-security prisons produce. • The taxpayer, already suffering from recession, who pays millions more each year to keep a maximum-security facility operating.
Maximum-Security: Wrong for Massachusetts • Maximum security prisons do NOT save the state money. • Maximum security prisons do NOT deter former prisoners from re-offending. • Maximum security prisons do NOT serve the community outside of the prison in the long run. • Maximum security prisons do NOT belong in Massachusetts.
What's the Alternative? • Instead of adding to its already disproportionately-large maximum-security capacity, MA could build more minimum-security beds. • Massachusetts would save about $12,000 per prisoner per year – that money could be used to further alleviate overcrowding, or to alleviate the impact of the recession on the state’s strained balance sheet. • But what about the supposed overcrowding in the max? Many of those prisoners don’t find themselves in the max for public safety reasons, and could be safely transitioned to mediums; medium-security prisoners could in turn be transferred to the minimums. • Prisoners in medium- and minimum-security prisons will have more opportunities to rehabilitate themselves and reintegrate into society, lowering recidivism rates and thus the crime rate as a whole.
Sources • Except for Arkansas, where we relied on a news report, data on the costs of prisons were compiled from state departments of corrections. Here are the individual sources and the years the data come from: • AR, 2005: www.nwanews.com/adg/News/144803/ • CT, 2000 :www.cga.ct.gov/pri/archives/2000fireportchap2.htm • GA, 2007: www.dcor.state.ga.us/pdf/CorrectionsCosts.pdf • KY, 2005: justice.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/A77C801C-D007-43C8-93CD-2677AEE24260/0/SectionXII.pdf • MA,2004:www.mass.gov/Eeops/docs/eops/GovCommission_Corrections_Reform.pdf • MS, 2007: http://www.peer.state.ms.us/2007.html • NC, 2008: http://www.doc.state.nc.us/dop/cost/ • NE,2008:www.corrections.state.ne.us/administration/statistics/programs.html • NV,2008: budget.state.nv.us/budget_2007_09/budget_book/2007-2009%20Executive%20Budget_CORRECTIONS.pdf • OK,2008:www.doc.state.ok.us/adminservices/finance/08coi_wp.htm • RI,2008:www.doc.ri.gov/documents/media/RIDOC%20At%20a%20Glance%2005-09.pdf • WI, 1997: www.legis.state.wi.us/LAB/reports/97-18summary.htm