Downing slams Norfolk prison plan as “exact opposite” of state’s needs

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BOSTON (SHNS) – Democratic candidate for governor Ben Downing came out against a plan to build a new women’s prison in Norfolk on Tuesday, calling on the Legislature to intervene and ban the construction of new jails and prisons in Massachusetts.

Downing, an East Boston resident and former state senator from the Berkshires, said “investing in incarceration is the exact opposite of what Massachusetts needs.”

The Baker administration is exploring the construction of a new prison for women that would replace the outdated and aging prison for women at MCI Framingham. The project is early in the process, but already several state lawmakers have moved to block new prison construction through legislation.

“If there is a genuine desire by state leaders to focus on more ‘trauma-informed’ care for those interacting with our justice system, then our dollars should be directed towards decarceration, community-based alternatives, housing, mental health care, education, job training, and the endless other ways we can support — rather than punish — those carrying trauma,” Downing said in a statement on Tuesday.

The candidate also called on his former colleagues to pass a bill (H 1905 / S 2030) filed by Rep. Chynah Tyler of Boston and Sen. Jo Comerford of Northampton that would put a five-year moratorium on the expansion or construction of new correctional facilities.

Massachusetts currently has the lowest incarceration rate of women of any state in the country at 10 per 100,000, according to The Sentencing Project.

“Our state government should also engage transparently and in good faith with the advocates for whom this is deeply personal; the women and children and families living with the generational consequences of incarceration every day,” Downing said. 

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