Concentration on “Corrections” in Hampden County

By: Richard J. McCarthy

Featured Jurisdictions Interagency Collaboration Jail Populations November 4, 2019

The Hampden County, Massachusetts correctional system has in its custody offenders who have been sentenced to two and a half years or less, pretrial detainees for all crimes, and state and federal inmates who are reentering their communities in Hampden County. The system, which includes four separate facilities at four different levels of security, is a member of the Large Jail Network, meaning it has an average daily population of 1,000 inmates or more. But the Hampden County system used to be even larger—it has reduced its inmate population by 30 percent since 2008, resulting in an annual savings of 13.1 million dollars compared to what the annual budget would be if the inmate count had not been reduced. The current inmate count is 624 people fewer on a daily basis than it was in 2008, and the three-year recidivism rate has been reduced by 27% since 2001.

This reduction of inmates, resultant cost savings, and dramatically reduced recidivism is a direct result of the broad and deep effort that the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department staff makes to support those in its custody in picking up the tools and directions needed to build a better life. Specifically, the Hampden County Correctional Center has a policy whereby those in its custody are expected to spend up to 40 hours per week in activities, such as work within the institution or in programs that prepare them to be productive citizens. These programs address important issues such as substance abuse, education, employment readiness, housing placement, victim impact awareness, and spiritual growth.

The sheriff’s department has also developed a three-month long continuum of gradual, supervised, and supported community reentry by offenders and has partnered with 300 community nonprofits to assist in its offender reentry effort.

As one example of reentry programming, our Day Reporting program—the first of its kind in the nation, begun in 1987—allows people at the end of their sentences to live at home as they are monitored by GPS and Day Reporting staff. They adhere to a strict daily schedule of community programs and work, report in daily, and are subject to urine and breathalyzer substance use screening tests. The cost to supervise an offender in Day Reporting is considerably less than the cost of 24/7 incarceration in a correctional facility.

Hampden County’s recent history offers verifiable, measurable, quantitative proof that a focused concentration on “corrections,” rather than warehousing of offenders, can be hugely successful for both individuals and cost savings, while maintaining public safety.