Opinion: End our reliance on mass incarceration

Aug 23, 2021

To the editor:

I am writing in support of H.1905/S.2030 An Act Establishing a Jail and Prison Construction Moratorium, a bill currently before the Massachusetts legislature that would put a five-year pause on jail and prison design, construction, and expansion across the Commonwealth.

I am inspired by the organizers behind this bill who are living, working, and raising children in neighborhoods enduring the highest rates of policing and incarceration. I am also motivated by the horrific reports of abuse from inside the Bristol County Jail and House of Correction here in Dartmouth.

Punishment in the form of incarceration does not heal people, families, nor communities. It does not make our communities safer; it simply harms marginalized people who do not have the access to resources that keep more privileged people, especially those of us who are white and socioeconomically secure, out of the system.

While the incarcerated population in Massachusetts decreased 21% from 2011 to 2019, spending on incarceration has increased 25% over the same period. Conditions inside many of our state’s prisons and jails remain toxic and inhumane, including the Bristol County House of Correction, despite the millions of dollars poured into them. Investing more money on an abusive, ineffective system is neither fiscally nor morally sound.

I invite readers to contact their legislators in support of An Act Establishing a Jail and Prison Construction Moratorium.

Thank you,

Tatiana Oberkoette,