Overcrowding Facts

The Truth About Prison Overcrowding in Massachusetts

  • Massachusetts has a serious, severe problem with prison overcrowding.  This cuts across detention levels and genders.  Both female and male prisoners are facing extreme overcrowding conditions.  Whether they are being held in minimum security or in maximum security, prisoners are living in conditions that are cramped and uncomfortable.
  • In the first quarter of 2011, the population rate at Massachusetts prisons was at 141 percent.  In total, Massachusetts prisons are designed to hold approximately 8000 prisoners.  At the end of the first quarter this year, they were holding more than 11,300.
  • For instance, MCI Concord, a medium security prison, is designed to house 614 prisoners.  In March 2011, 1299 prisoners were there, meaning that MCI Concord is at 212 percent of its capacity.  At MCI Framingham ATU, a medium security facility for female prisoners, the Awaiting Trial Unit – designed to house 64 prisoners – was instead holding 179.  This put MCI Framingham ATU at 281 percent of its capacity on average in the first three months of the year.
  • Of 19 minimum, medium, and maximum security prisons in Massachusetts (not including pre-release programs), 16 were at 100 percent or above their capacity at the end of March 2011.

From Quarterly Report on the Status of Prison Overcrowding, First Quarter 2011

  • The situation is only expected to get worse.  As of September 12th, Massachusetts prisons were at 144 percent occupancy, with more than 11,500 prisoners housed in Department of Corrections facilities.
  • MCI Framingham ATU is now at 369 percent occupancy, while MCI Concord is at 220 percent.  17 of the 19 of the state’s prisons are at 100 percent or above capacity.  The Commonwealth’s two maximum security prisons – MCI Cedar Junction at Walpole and Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley – are at 128 percent and 121 percent occupancy respectively.
  • According to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections in 2009, “Total prison population, including criminally sentenced, awaiting trial and civil commitments, is projected to grow 26.8% at an annual average growth of 2.7% from 2009 to 2019.”
  • The report also notes that “total sentenced population1 is projected to grow 28.1% at an annual average growth of 2.5% from 2009 to 2019, increasing to 13,420 in 2019.”