Five years after landmark criminal justice reform, prison racial disparities widen in Mass.

Jenifer B. McKim, GBH

Five years after Massachusetts passed sweeping criminal justice reform legislation, a new report released on January 17 shows key improvements in the state’s carceral system — along with widening racial disparities.

The report, released by the nonprofit Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, or MassINC, and Boston Indicators, shows the state’s incarceration rate is the lowest in the country — a rate that was nearly halved in the last decade.

But that fall is partly driven by an especially significant drop in the white incarcerated population. The rate of incarceration for white Massachusetts residents fell 40% between 2017 and 2021, compared to 32% for Latinos and 21% for Black residents. Black people are now more than seven times more likely than whites to be incarcerated in Massachusetts, data shows. And the rate of incarceration for Latinos has been rising since 2020.

Ben Forman, research director of MassINC, says findings show that more change is needed, especially since the pandemic challenged reform efforts across the country.

“We’ve got to be putting more resources into prevention, and support rehabilitation to try and reduce crime,” Forman told GBH News. “Not go back to the old ways of just locking people up and letting them back into the community years later in worse shape than they entered.”

Read the full story at GBH News:

Publisher’s Note: GBH and Massachusetts Latino News (MALN) are partners in providing greater visibility and voice to local Hispanic-Latinos communities.