Produced in partnership with Boston Indicators, MassINC released the report “Criminal Justice Reform in Massachusetts: A Five-Year Progress Assessment,” that examines the impact of two landmark criminal justice reform laws passed in 2018.
The report mentions statistics on the older incarcerated population, including the finding that the Department of Corrections (DOC) population is rapidly aging.
The report states that, in 2017, those who are age 60 and over composed 9 percent of the custody population; today they make up 16 percent, or 833 individuals. Between FY 18 and FY 22, there were 582 petitions total for medical parole and 63 granted, for a parole rate of 11 percent.
The report mentions that the younger adult DOC population is declining faster than older inmates.
The criminal justice reforms that were analyzed included medical parole. Massachusetts was one of the few states that did not provide medical parole for aging prisoners who posed no public safety risk due to terminal illness or a debilitating health condition. The report expains that the law created a process whereby debilitated prisoners, who can find appropriate care in the community, may petition the superintendent or sheriff for medical release. If the prisoner is granted medical release, they are supervised by the parole board, which may re-incarcerate them if they recover unexpectedly.
Between FY 18 and FY 22, there were 582 petitions total for medical parole and 63 granted, for a parole rate of 11 percent. Among those granted medical parole, there were strong racial disparities, with 13 percent of White petitioners receiving approval compared to just 7 percent of non-White applicants.