The following is a statement from Community Resources for Justice President & CEO John Larivee and Board Chairman Scott Harshbarger on the inclusion of $5 million for community-based reentry programs in the Conference Committee’s FY19 budget.
“Today marks another step forward in Massachusetts’ march toward a fairer, more efficient criminal justice system that recognizes and balances the need for accountability as well as second chances. The inclusion of $5 million for community-based residential reentry programs will allow an estimated 800 individuals to receive assistance overcoming basic obstacles to starting a new life after incarceration, such as obtaining a state ID, finding housing and employment, and connecting with substance abuse and mental health counseling.
“Massachusetts earlier this year showed its commitment to criminal justice reform by enacting long-overdue legislation that expanded alternatives to incarceration, limited use of mandatory minimum sentences for some low-level offenses, updating the way our system handles juvenile offenders, and more. What the legislation left out, however, was funding for reentry programs in the community that combine intensive case management, support, and accountability to set people on the right path.
“The budget released today fills that gap through line item 0339-1011. The $5 million will support a grant program that will allow non-profits to partner with Massachusetts probation, parole, jails, and prisons to offer individuals the tools and support they need in order to return to the community after incarceration while also holding them accountable during that transition period. In recent years, Massachusetts has dedicated only about $90,000 annually to these programs. That’s about the same amount it costs to incarcerate two individuals in state prison for a year.
“This funding is the result of a groundswell of advocacy from a broad coalition led by Community Resources for Justice that also includes district attorneys, defense attorneys, county sheriffs, law enforcement officials, lawmakers, Boston city councilors, and dozens of community organizations and individuals in response to multiple Massachusetts reentry programs closing or scaling back their services due to lack of funding.
“We’re grateful to the many organizations and individuals that made their voices heard on this important issue, to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Ways & Means Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez for including it in the House budget, and to Senate Ways & Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka for supporting it in Conference Committee. We also thank Reps. Byron Rushing, Liz Malia, Evandro Carvalho and Dan Cullinane for their support and leadership; and Senator William Brownsberger for championing this essential part of criminal justice reform.
“Residential reentry programs reduce the likelihood that an individual will reoffend by providing a solid foundation for a productive life in the community. That means less crime and safer, stronger communities for all of us.”