Minutes from 2/5/21 Meeting

Special Commission on Correctional Funding
Friday, February 5, 2021 1pm-3pm

Commissioners Present:

  • Representative Michael Day, Co-chair, Appointed by the Speaker
  • Senator Will Brownsberger, Co-chair, Appointed by the Senate President
  • 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
  • Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger, Appointed by the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association
  • James Morton, Appointed by the Chief Justice of the Trial Court
  • Commissioner of Probation Edward J. Dolan
  • Michael Widmer, Appointed by the Speaker
  • Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr., Appointed by the Governor
  • Gerard Horgan, Esq., Appointed by the Governor

Commissioners Absent:

  • Senator Ryan Fattman, Appointed by the Senate Minority Leader
  • Representative Timothy R. Whelan, Appointed by the House Minority Leader
  • Gianni Maffeo, Appointed by the Secretary of Administration and Finance
  • Francesca Spina, Ph.D., Appointed by the Governor
  • Kate R. Cook, Sugarman Rogers, Appointed by the Boston Bar Association
  • Christina Crowley, Plymouth County Assistant District Attorney, Appointed by the Massachusetts Bar Association
  • Kevin Keefe, Appointed by the Chair of the Parole Board
  • Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson, Appointed by the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association

Documents Discussed:

Minutes from 1/8/21

2/5 Commission Task Review

2/5 Commission Presentation (provided by Ben Forman)

Senator Brownsberger called the meeting to order shortly after 1pm and requested legislative staff member, Anne Landry, to call the roll.

Senator Brownsberger thanked the public audience for their interest in this meeting and stated that at the next commission meeting, public input will be accepted and welcomed.

Senator Brownsberger inquired as to whether there were objections to the draft minutes from 1/8/21. No objections were raised and a roll call was taken. With the exception of those absent, the Commission unanimously approved the draft minutes. The Senator then stated that the agenda would be slightly altered in that agenda item 4 will be switched with agenda item 5.

Senator Brownsberger asked Mike Jackson, from the National Institute of Corrections (“NIC”), to provide an update. Mike Jackson informed the Commission that the cooperative agreement closed on January 30th. The NIC made an award to the consulting company Practical Solutions who brought in another subcontractor with correctional and virtual development backgrounds. The NIC is working on an implementation plan and will send it along to the Commission in the next ten days.

Senator Brownsberger then moved on to a discussion of the charge and Commission members’ responsibilities under the charge. He shared a presentation detailing the breakdown of the Commission’s charge.  Senator Brownsberger noted that there is not a clear work plan on ‘actual vs. appropriate spending on mental health and substance use disorder services.’ Senator Brownsberger also stated that as a group, the Commission does not have specific expertise on substance abuse and mental health treatment issues. The Senator opened the floor for discussion on how to best address the substance abuse and mental health mandate in the charge.

Sheriff Coppinger highlighted that roughly 70% of inmates have some form of substance abuse and more than half have mental health disorders. He also stated that there are a lot of valuable resources, specifically under DPH & DMH, and raised the possibility of bringing someone in from the outside. Senator Brownsberger noted that the Commission could consider using monies budgeted to the Commission for this.

Sheriff Ashe suggested that the sheriffs and DOC try to come together and find practices to address some of these issues. Sheriff Coppinger noted that there are certain standards that need to be followed and suggested using Carrie Hill to start some form of this. Carrie Hill noted a 2019 document titled “Jail Based Medication Assisted Promising Practice Guidelines and Resources for the Field” as a starting point for figuring out guidelines.

Senator Brownsberger suggested that Carrie Hill give a presentation and, after discussion, the Commission and Ms. Hill agreed to schedule for the next meeting.

Senator Brownsberger noted as part of his presentation a requirement for ‘an analysis of impacts chapter 69 of the acts of 2018’ and further stated that an inventory already exists including different cost driving elements of those reforms. He also stated the sheriffs completed a 2019 survey on this issue and asked Tom Preston whether the DOC could provide similar metrics when updating the survey.. Commissioner Preston stated that he is meeting with colleagues at the DOC next week and he will circle back on this.

Senator Brownsberger noted the following line of the slide ‘a review of the physical assets, infrastructure, buildings and communication equipment owned by each sheriff’s department and state prison,’ and opened the floor to thoughts from Commission members on how best to go about addressing it.

Representative Day asked Sheriff Coppinger and Sheriff Ashe how easy it is to generate/review the inventory of the assets of their particular departments.

Sheriff Coppinger replied that it was not a monumental task and it would be possible with some discussion as to how to go about it. He raised security concerns regarding specific inventory of communication equipment. Senator Brownsberger asked Tom Preston and Carrie Hill to give a little thought to the inventory issue to discuss in the next meeting.

Senator Brownsberger then moved on to the next line of the slide ‘review of funding sources’ and the ‘expense breakdown: health care, payroll (care and custody), programming for recidivism reduction including all “programs”,’ noting that Commissioners Forman and Joy will have this soon. After finishing the overview of the charge, the Commission moved on to the presentation by Commissioners Forman and Joy without objection.

Ben Forman presented preliminary numbers of population trends, staffing ratios and salary expenditure. He noted drops in population and crime and incarceration rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also noted that because of the oddity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission needs to decide what numbers are most appropriate. Tom Preston noted delays in the court system could be the cause of some changes, to which Ben Forman agreed and suggested using 2019 as a reference year instead of 2020.

Sheriff Coppinger brought up the possibilities of disparities in staffing due to different practices and classifications by Sheriff Department. Ben Forman stated that the best way to overcome that is by looking at the issues through expenditure per inmate, whether its payroll spending on contractual spending.

Ben Forman noted the issue with capturing the prescription medicines that are purchased and whether or not they would be included as they are generally purchased through another state agency. Sheriff Coppinger noted the mandatory requirements that came with the prescription medicine and detailed the multiple avenues from which they can be purchased that can affect the data. Emi Joy noted that some information gets lost and that the survey that was posed will help refine the data.

Senator Brownsberger noted the issues and stated that this is why we are doing the NIC study. He questioned if this will be generated for DOC and within each DOC facility. Emi Joy noted that the discussion has been about DOC as a whole instead of DOC by facility and recommended it stay that way due to the flexibility it allowed and Commissioner Preston agreed. Representative Day stated that the NIC study will provide this on a granular level.

Ben Forman asked what year should we focus on to which Representative Day stated that 2020 is an outlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that 2019 would give a better picture. However, a trend line including 2017 and 2018 wouldn’t be possible because of law changes. Ben Forman noted that the years may not make much of a difference because of the data he is reviewing and Emi Joy agreed.

Senator Brownsberger then stated that the Commission should do the analysis for 2019 and include multiple trend lines that take it as far forward as possible. Questions were raised regarding using calendar year 2019 or fiscal year 2019 to which the decision was left to Ben Forman and Emi Joy due to all the caveats and discrepancies caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Commissioners Forman and Joy will provide the Commission with an update on this at the meeting following March 5th.

The Commission voted unanimously among those present to adjourn and agreed to tentatively meet again on March 5th at 1pm. This meeting will include public input and the review of mental health and substance abuse criteria.