Minutes from 12/4/20 Meeting

Special Commission on Correctional Funding
December 4, 2020 11am-1pm

Commissioners Present:

  • Representative Michael Day, Co-chair, Appointed by the Speaker
  • Senator Will Brownsberger, Co-chair, Appointed by the Senate President
  • Representative Timothy R. Whelan, Appointed by the House Minority Leader
  • Emi Joy, EOPSS CFO, Appointed by the Secretary of EOPSS
  • Ben Forman, MassINC, Appointed by the Senate President
  • Thomas Preston, Deputy Commissioner of Administration, Appointed by the Commissioner of the Department of Correction
  • James Morton, Appointed by the Chief Justice of the Trial Court
  • Commissioner of Probation Edward J. Dolan
  • Kevin Keefe, Appointed by the Chair of the Parole Board
  • Christina Crowley, Plymouth County Assistant District Attorney, Appointed by the Massachusetts Bar Association
  • Michael Widmer, Appointed by the Speaker
  • Kate R. Cook, Sugarman Rogers, Appointed by the Boston Bar Association (present for most of the meeting)
  • Jon D’Angelo on behalf of Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr., Appointed by the Governor
  • Gerard Horgan, Esq., Appointed by the Governor (joined approximately at 12pm)

Commissioners Absent:

  • Senator Ryan Fattman, Appointed by the Senate Minority Leader
  • Gianni Maffeo, Appointed by the Secretary of Administration and Finance
  • Francesca Spina, Ph.D., Appointed by the Governor
  • Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger, Appointed by the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association
  • Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson, Appointed by the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association

Documents Discussed:

11/06/20 Draft Minutes

NIC Staffing Analysis Cooperative Agreement Document

DCAMM Presentation

Correctional Funding Commission Charge

Senator Brownsberger called the meeting to order shortly after 11am and introduced legislative staff members Anne Landry and Caitlin Long.

Senator Brownsberger inquired as to whether there were any objections to the draft minutes from 11/6/20. No objections were raised and a roll call was taken. With the exception of those absent, the Commission unanimously approved the draft minutes.

Senator Brownsberger introduced and recognized Mike Jackson and Stephen Amos from the National Institute of Corrections to provide an update to the Commission.

Stephen Amos stated that the cooperative agreement was released on December 2nd. The application deadline is January 15th, as they would like to begin the process on March 4th. Stephen Amos stated that they welcome all that would like to pursue this cooperative agreement. And that they will provide the Commission with regular reporting’s and with any questions or changes that may come up along the way.

Senator Brownsberger stated that the document will be made available on the correctional funding website and that the meeting will now move on to the DCAMM presentation.

Commissioner Emi Joy thanked DCAMM for joining as they have been working very hard to go through every fiscal aspect under corrections to come up with what sort of investment decisions should be made. Their presentation is solely an architectural look, but it is a critical building block and something that DCAMM is relied on for. Commissioner Joy introduced Emmanuel Andrade as the project manager at DCAMM, who gave the presentation.

At 11:20 am Senator Brownsberger began the recording of the meeting and stated that the prior action to the meeting was the approval of minutes and an update from NIC.

Emmanuel Andrade presented the Facility Condition Assessment of Correctional Facilities. The presentation is a product of a partnership with the DOC and the county sheriffs’ departments. Mr. Andrade described the first section of the presentation as the Facility Condition Assessment’s (FCA) scope and approach of the project. The second section includes the overall conditions of the correctional portfolio, the third is the review of the repair needs they identified, and the fourth is a quick recap and presentation of some of the current capital investments performed by DCAMM.

After presenting the slide show, Mr. Andrade stated that this is the first time the Commonwealth has done a review of the portfolio; the FCA is limited as it only looks at facility needs and does not look at space needs based on the population or bed count in the correctional portfolio. This only looks at facility needs, building systems and components on the basis of a future investment by the Commonwealth.

Senator Brownsberger thanked Emmanuel Andrade for his excellent presentation and asked if Commissioner Joy wanted to put this into context.

Commissioner Joy put the correctional portfolio in the context of the rest of the Commonwealth, stating that the Commonwealth is limited in the total number of capital dollars it has to invest; EOPSS is often making requests or suggesting prioritizing projects. They prioritize projects based on their value; they ask the question whether it is an investment or a repair that needs to happen right away. There is only a limited amount of dollars and they must look to see where they can direct the monies to have the highest impact. They look at the programmatic goals and match that to what spaces are there and the possibilities of how they can grow and expand to better suit the population.

Senator Brownsberger asked Commissioner Joy what the process is to take it to the next level of facility needs from a policy perspective.

Commissioner Joy stated that there are a couple of paths forward but they haven’t had the full discussion on which path to take yet. One of their past works has been a master plan under DCAMM that has taken the full view of what is the baseline of planned needs and how to prioritize these needs, but how they plug the programmatic needs into it is variable and they have not decided on that yet. The conversations are ongoing and they are really hoping to have a plan soon.

Commissioner Widmer asked Commissioner Joy if they will take into consideration how many people we actually need in prisons.

Commissioner Joy stated this is absolutely something they are looking into and thinking about. They will pull data from other states to look at the trends and to do their best to change and build.

Representative Whelan stated that the prison population in MA is 49th-50th in the nation in the percentage of citizens that we have in our correctional facilities, so the mass incarceration rates that we hear about cited in the news tend to be outside of our state.

Commissioner Widmer stated that this is an important fact but doesn’t change the question whether MA should change its incarceration policy.

Representative Whelan responded that this lies outside of the control of the DOC and something that the Judiciary itself will have to look at. The Judiciary and legislature would have to address, the DOC has no say in this.

Commissioner Widmer noted that he appreciates that, but that it will be something the Commission will need to look at as we are looking at investments over 10 years.

Commissioner Joy stated that there are still important conversations that need to be had and that any good plan should be adaptable to change.

Senator Brownsberger thanked DCAMM for their presentation and asked for an update from Ben Forman.

Representative Day thanked DCAMM as well and wanted to make sure the Commission could post the presentation on the Commission’s website with their permission. Permission was granted by DCAMM.

Commissioner Forman said that he was very briefly able to connect with Commissioner Joy and she had some very helpful suggestions. The goal is to better understand healthcare expenditures, program expenditures, and it would be good to go to each of the agencies with a survey to better understand how they are paying for healthcare expenditures, especially, to break down the difference between behavioral health and general health. When trying to understand healthcare expenditures they had not previously done any of this analysis and it seems like this might be a topic the Commission would like to pursue to identify and understand these expenditures. They also discussed special initiatives and will want to make sure the Commission classifies those expenditures accurately in its analysis. Commissioner Joy suggested they put together a short survey to send to the departments so that the Commission can better understand before starting to classify them into budget object codes.

Commissioner Joy clarified why she was thinking of that approach by explaining that Commissioner Forman has been using a system of putting object codes on a classification of how we pay for things. Each agency receives a budget, which is comprised of accounts, or line items, and the way that we spend money out of these appropriations is through object classes, more specifically object codes. Example, AA is where fulltime staff salaries come from but then there is a sub code in there that includes base pay, overtime, etc. They are letters randomly assigned to values. Commissioner Forman took these letters and organized them into categories in ‘buckets’ to reduce them. There are some discrepancies in how some entities decide to spend money. By just pulling medical contracts we are missing a lot of the costs. In an ideal world we would ask them to show us everywhere their medical spending, but this is often pretty burdensome to do.

Senator Brownsberger stated that for the record Commissioner Horgan joined at approximately 12pm. 

Senator Brownsberger asked Commissioner Joy if the spending levels are available at the facility level.

Commissioner Joy stated that it would show up easier for Sheriffs, but for DOC on site-specific contracts, it may end up being a proportional distribution. Essentially, Commissioner Forman has a bucket model and Commissioner Joy proposes going a step further to make sure the codes are being used appropriately.

Commissioner Preston stated that on the healthcare piece, individuals might want to see a finite cost per facility, which will be almost near impossible because the contracts will be written for the staffing levels for the entire agency, not per facility. This is built to a staffing level and the staffing level is through the agency and they also have to staff per facility as well.

Senator Brownsberger asked if the personnel costs are in a different category and whether they are associated with specific facilities.

Commissioner Preston stated that if it is a medical piece, then the personnel from the medical company are all within the same contract. If it is their own personnel, it will be in object code AA for regular salaries, then will move down to shift differentials, overtime, etc. All of this comes up in personnel HR payouts.

Commissioner Forman stated that in terms of their work they assign personnel codes based on staff titles. It is worth doing as some titles are pretty clear, but that is one of the things that is important to try and undertake.

Commissioner Preston noted that it is important to get it ironed out; that we don’t want to miss anything either while someone else is not spending in that category because it may not balance out correctly. We will need to talk about it further to make sure we are on the right track and have the right goals, the same goes with the programming piece as well.

Commissioner Joy stated that there should be a conversation on what we bucket as programmatic cost. If a particular vendor is brought in then it is clear that it is a program cost, but there might be a particular program that someone can participate in, where we see spending for equipment brought in for that program and is coordinated by program staff. Do we include the program coordinator, staff salary, etc. we need to figure out what each bucket should include.

Senator Brownsberger indicated that the Commission would move on to the next agenda item and go over the charge

Commissioner Widmer highlighted the third paragraph of the charge [The study shall include…(v) expenses on programming for recidivism reduction, including case management, reentry support, behavioral health…] and stated that this part is pretty comprehensive and is a key central piece to the charge, and hopes the Commission doesn’t lose sight of it.

Senator Brownsberger asked how much of this will get done under the analysis that Commissioner Forman and Commissioner Joy are bringing forward.

Commissioner Forman stated that this is exactly why we want to get a better understanding on healthcare and in order to do this we will definitely need some input and collaboration from these agencies.

Commissioner Preston stated they are happy to collaborate and answer the questions asked. If there were a timeframe the Commission would like to receive it by that would get the ball rolling. Commissioner Preston asked Commissioner Forman and Joy if they would like to collaborate after the meeting to figure out what they can come up with in the sense of format and presentation.

Senator Brownsberger stated that there is some work to be done here but can make some reasonable allocations based on the data that we do have and feel we can assemble. Senator Brownsberger asked the Commission for their views regarding the staffing ratio portion of the charge (i) and stated that that data should be readily available and asked if Commissioner Forman has enough information regarding staffing numbers/population to which Commissioner Forman answered yes..  

Senator Brownsberger asked what the commission is thinking for section (iv.)

Commissioner Forman asked if this was used in a previous discussion or in the budget and that he thought we have this information somewhere.

Senator Brownsberger stated that this section may be a little bit unwieldy, but it does require a bit of data collection.

Commissioner Forman suggested that this could be a good starting place for the survey.

Senator Brownsberger motioned back to the charge and emphasized section (v) of paragraph two, analysis of chapter 69 acts of 2018, and stated that this section is potentially larger than it looks, another way of looking at this is, what is solitary confinement and what will it take to really meet these directives. This section may need some further thought. The Senator moved to section (vi) of the same paragraph and stated that it seems like it was done with exception of the communications equipment, which can be expensive. He had noticed that electrical components were included in the review, which may be close enough. Next the Senator referred to section (vii) and asked Commissioner Joy if the Commission had any data including all of the revenue sources for all facilities.

Commissioner Joy stated that they have them for the DOC, but was not sure about the sheriffs; they can write a report regarding this.

Senator Brownsberger asked if any Commissioners had any questions regarding the charge. No questions were raised. Senator Brownsberger suggested Friday, January 8th as the next Commission Meeting date.

Representative Day asked if this would give Commissioner Forman and Joy enough time to go over this and pull together a potential survey.

Commissioner Forman believes they will have significant time.

The Commission agreed to meet again on January 8th, with the plan that Ben Forman and Emi Joy will provide the Commission with a proposed survey.

The Commission voted unanimously among all those present to adjourn.