On Thursday, June 4th, we joined a campaign led by the Roxbury-based Families for Justice as Healing to oppose the authorization of any new bonds for capital investments in the Massachusetts State Police, the Department of Correction, and new jail or prison construction. We submitted the below testimony to the Senate Committee on Bonding.
For months we have been supporting Families for Justice as Healing through the Building Up People Not Prisons Coalition in their campaign to end the incarceration of women and girls in the Commonwealth, and in particular to stop the construction of a proposed new women’s prison at the cost of $50 million and a new regional lockup in Suffolk County for pre-arraignment arrestees, which has been proven not to keep people safe. Instead of a new prison, the Commonwealth should be investing in real solutions—alternatives to incarceration and criminalization: housing, treatment, living wage employment, harm reduction, trauma services, violence prevention, community-led processes of restorative and transformative justice.
In January, Families for Justice as Healing sent a powerful letter to the Governor and the Executive Office of Public Safety & Security. We then helped Families for Justice as Healing draft a formal bid protest to the Attorney General’s Office, noting that the Designer Selection Board had not properly advertised the notice of designer selection for bids related to the proposed women’s prison consistent with state law. Organizers showed up to demand that the process for selecting a designer to study how to build the prison be halted. These letters – as well as strategic meetings between formerly incarcerated Black women and the selected architecture firms – resulted in halting the process of selecting a firm to study constructing a new women’s prison, at least for now.
But even as the process of studying construction for an unnecessary new women’s prison is paused, the Senate Committee on Bonding is considering authorizing bonds to support further capital investments in policing and punishment. We know that this is a profound matter of racial justice. In Massachusetts, 58% of people in state prison are people of color – particularly Black and Hispanic people – while 78% of the state’s population is white. We urged the Senate Committee on Bonding to oppose line items in the House version of the bill that would saddle the Commonwealth with debt to continue funding a counterproductive and racist punishment system.