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Massachusetts to stop housing inmates at notorious prison

April 8, 2022 GMT

WALPOLE, Mass. (AP) — The Massachusetts Department of Correction, citing falling incarceration rates and enormous maintenance costs, plans to stop housing inmates at one of its oldest and most notorious prisons.

The department said in a statement Thursday that housing operations at the maximum security MCI-Cedar Junction prison in Walpole will be phased out in three stages over two years.

The state has been working to reform its criminal justice and prison disciplinary systems, state Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy said in a statement.

“The fruit of that work — the lowest level of incarceration in decades — was achieved by providing at-risk individuals with pathways to positive life choices, creating new re-entry services, and empowering returning citizens to rebuild their lives in meaningful ways,” he said.

The state currently has its lowest prison population in 35 years, the agency said, citing the Vera Institute for Justice. Massachusetts’ incarceration rate is among the lowest in the nation, decreasing by more than 2,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a record low of nearly 6,000 people behind bars, the agency said.

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“The strategic decision to suspend Cedar Junction’s general population housing and re-locate its reception and diagnostic center is based on a thorough assessment of decreased housing needs and the aging facility’s exorbitant maintenance costs,” the prisons agency said. “Furthermore, this action aligns with the department’s commitment to eliminate restrictive housing and reform its approach to discipline.”

Cedar Junction currently operates at 68% capacity with a population of about 525 inmates.

The prison, which opened in 1955, needs about $30 million in necessary infrastructure repairs, the department said.

The prison has been home to some of the state’s most notorious and dangerous criminals. The newer and more modern Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on the Lancaster-Shirley line is now the state’s primary maximum security prison.