Massachusetts women need more services, not more jail cells

Bill H.1434 proposes to build a whole new "Women's Pretrial Facility." More jail cells should never be the first response to overcrowding problems.

by Leah Sakala, April 25, 2014

Yesterday we submitted testimony in opposition of Massachusetts bill H.1434, which would build a new jail in Middlesex County specifically for women who are awaiting trial and thus haven’t been convicted.

It’s true that we’re facing some pretty serious overcrowding problems here in Massachusetts, and that continuing to cram more women into MCI Framingham is by no means a solution. But throwing taxpayer money into building new jail cells for women who are just waiting for their trial dates isn’t a smart or sustainable solution either. As we explained to the Joint Committee on The Judiciary:

Many people who are in pretrial detention are incarcerated only because they lack sufficient funds to pay their own bail fees, which are sometimes as little as $500. It would irresponsible and misguided for the Legislature to invest millions of Massachusetts taxpayers’ dollars in constructing a facility that is designed to confine women who simply cannot afford to buy their freedom while they await trial.

We know that reforming our bail and sentencing policies, relying on already-existing methods of reducing the number of people in jail, and investing in community services would all be a far more healthy, humane, and efficient ways to solve the overcrowding problem.

If you are a Massachusetts resident and want to weigh in on jail expansion in our state, you can contact your legislator, too.

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