STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, OCT. 17, 2016…..Leaders of all three branches of state government huddled for over two hours in Gov. Charlie Baker’s office on Monday to review research being conducted by an outside non-profit into potential criminal justice reforms that could help reduce incarceration rates and recidivism in Massachusetts.
The gathering of top state officials preceded a public meeting scheduled for later this week when Council of State Governments officials will present their latest data on the types of programs that have proven effective to reduce recidivism.
“We bounce things back and forth. We ask questions to make sure we understand the research as they’re doing it so that when they come in with the recommendations we’re not back there still trying to figure out the data that got to that point,” Senate President Stanley Rosenberg told the News Service as he exited the governor’s office.
Asked whether Monday’s meeting had a specific focus, Rosenberg said, “It was more on the re-entry side.”
Baker, Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo were joined at the meeting with researchers by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Judiciary Committee co-chairs Rep. John Fernandes and Sen. William Brownsberger.
The Council’s Justice Center review launched after Baker, Gants, DeLeo and Rosenberg reached out in August 2015 to request support for an effort to study the state’s judicial and corrections systems and institute new data-driven and cost-effective practices.
Rosenberg said the effort is on pace to produce recommendations by January. That could put criminal justice reforms at the forefront of the Beacon Hill agenda for the next legislative session leading into Gov. Baker’s 2018 re-election effort.
“It meets the expectations,” Rosenberg said. “It’s on track and going just as it should.”
Legislative leaders over the years have struggled to agree on a path forward for criminal justice reform, with various bills calling for myriad changes faltering in the face of concerns over costs, public safety, recidivism and other impacts.
By working with the Council of State Governments, leaders sought to bring in an outside, independent voice with experience working in other states on similar problems to help develop a path forward.
Brownsberger declined to discuss specifics of Monday’s private meeting, but noted that there would be a public presentation on Thursday by researchers to a larger working group.
Asked if he was happy with the progress so far, Brownsberger said, “I think it’s a very constructive discussion.”
In addition to the overview on recidivism reduction programs, Justice Center researchers are also expected Thursday to present their analysis of treatment programming and reentry data collected from the Department of Correction and houses of corrections, according to the council.
That meeting will take place starting at 9 a.m. In the 21st floor conference room at 1 Ashburton Place.
Copyright 2016 State House News Service