BOSTON (WWLP) – An ongoing conversation in criminal justice reform continued Tuesday at the State House in Boston.
At a highly attended hearing today, law makers, justice reform advocates and both formally and currently incarcerated individuals testified in favor of a prison construction moratorium. Senator Jo Comerford and Representative Chyna Tyler are currently sponsoring a bill that if passed would pause prison construction in the state for five years.
The thought being, the money that could go to a new prison, could instead be diverted into the communities. The Baker administration had explored the construction of a new women’s prison to replace MCI-Framingham – Senator Jo Comerford said that project could cost up to $50 million dollars.
Last year, lawmakers on Beacon Hill sent the Baker administration a general government bond bill that included a 5 year prison moratorium, but then governor Baker vetoed that measure.
Senator Jamie Eldridge believes a moratorium is the next step in criminal justice reform, “There is no reason to build a new prison. We want to make sure the legislature takes a stand and we actually move towards closing more prisons in Massachusetts.”
Angelia Jefferson was incarcerated for 31 years at MCI-Framingham and now works for Families for Justice as Healing. She testified today to represent those currently incarcerated, “They are a part of me, I carry them on my shoulders, I carry them in my heart, I carry them in my soul, each and every day. I can’t forget about them, I have to stand up, something has to be done.”
Advocates of the bill say that the bill would not pause any needed repairs to prisons, only halt the creation of new ones. Also at the hearing today, 20 currently incarcerated individuals at MCI Framingham testified in front of the committee, this was the first time that had ever been done.