Patrick’s Parole Folly

By Jean Trounstine | Boston Magazine |

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing estimated that if a three-strikes bill had been passed, the state would have had to build four new prisons, costing $800 million, to accommodate all the extra prisoners. And additional millions would have been required to house them behind bars.  

We need to learn from Pennsylvania. More prison costs mean less money for education, healthcare, and other state services.

There is some hope on the horizon. This year, Cynthia Stone Creem, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and state Representative Kay Khan drafted separate legislation to create an oversight commission to study and make recommendations to improve the state’s criminal justice system. Recently, Creem’s proposal was signed into law. In an interview, Creem said she believes “we have some problems in our criminal assessment” of parole risk, but said that she does not want a three-strikes law like the one in California.

Massachusetts must move quickly to make sure parole reform is done in a sensible fashion. Time is short, after all — unless, that is, you visit a lonely room in Natick on Tuesdays, where lifers appearing before the parole board have nothing but time. Their hope is to be given a chance to join the 78 percent of successful parolees. Our hope should be a Massachusetts parole policy that works.

  • David

    I commend the author for saying some courageous things. In other contexts we accept that a policy decision carries some risk to lives and health. We try to minimize that risk but accept that the ris

  • Lyn

    We should know by now that knee jerk reactions don’t help. This is a carefully researched and level headed article that sets up the context carefully. When we rush to judgement, we usually rush in the wrong direction. There are too many lives at stake: potential victims of violent crime, people who work in overburdened, prisons where there is little hope left, and individuals whose futures will be lost because of overzealous individuals who act without thinking. In this case, I mean us: the folks who pass the laws that cause us to lose in the long AND short run. We have seen the evidence across the country. We can’t continually do the same thing and expect different results. Let’s work on the causes of the problems. Let’s, after all, be fair. It’s only right.

  • mike

    “The investigation uncovered some disturbing mistakes, such as poor parole supervision for Cinelli.” Really? How was it poor? What was the disturbing mistake? The PO did not call a treatment provider?

  • Jean

    Mike –To read the report from the governor’s office is to see the “disturbing” mistakes. Check it out for yourself at http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/26173/cinelli.pdf. Supervision and sup

  • Donna

    The DOC has a huge responsibility here! While the Dominic Cinelli’s of the world are incarcerated for some 20-30 years do they have access to education, rehab, therapy? Or is it the “stick em in a cage, poke sticks at him and see how he comes out mentality” – The DOC is not doing their job or properly preparing these inmates for life on the street. This is BIG business and job security for the DOC. Increasing recidivism rate guarantees and secures the jobs of so many employees of the DOC – They have no incentive to ensure that inmates are rehabilitated upon release from prison. That makes it so easy to blame a parole board. I also commend this author. People need to know that there are several inmates who are prepared to re-enter society, despite the DOC. Dept of CORRECTION.. I beg to differ. Google “The Catastrophic Failure of Corrections” by John Feroli, Old Colony prison

  • sher

    An enlightening article that validates society’s understandable concerns and fears, yet digs deeper to look at more effective ways to deal with those concerns. We should indeed learn from the way PA has overhauled their system by developing better criteria for parole, more support and stricter supervision of parolees, as well as a parole board composed of people with diverse fields of expertise. We need to see those in jail as ‘people’ and not just as ‘prisoners’ and to try to understand where the system went wrong so that they ended up in jail in the first place. An even broader vision would be to try to offer needed services sooner to prevent individuals from ending up in the Correctional System at all.

  • Jared

    I liked the evidence you came up with. It actually pursuaded me on the subject, although I did not have a side on the matter at the time.