For Victims Whose Offender is Incarcerated
In Massachusetts, offenders are held in one of three types of correctional facilities. If an adult is sentenced to a term of incarceration, the severity of the offense and the length of the sentence will be significant in determining where the inmate is incarcerated.
A Jail is usually run by the County Sheriff and holds defendants awaiting trials. A House of Correction is a county correctional facility also run by the County Sheriff to house convicted offenders who are sentenced for less than 2 1/2 years per charge or for crimes which the law considers less serious, misdemeanor crimes. A State Prison is the correctional facility run by the Department of Correction to house convicted offenders who are sentenced to terms of 2 1/2 years or longer per charge or for crimes which the law determines to be more serious, usually a felony. In some cases, if a defendant is sentenced to less than 2 1/2 years but has previously served time for a felony, that defendant will be housed in the state prison rather than the house of correction. Sentences to state prison do not have a minimum and the maximum is life without the possibility of parole (the mandatory sentence for First Degree Murder).
County Houses of Correction
The House of Correction system in Massachusetts is operated on the county level by the local Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff is responsible for housing inmates sentenced to the County House of Correction, transporting prisoners and housing offenders on bail who are awaiting trial.
The House of Correction in each county has a designated contact person to provide notification of an offender’s release from a county correctional facility. Some Sheriff’s Departments have a Victim Advocate who responds to victims’ concerns, assists with safety planning and other resources and provides notification of an offender’s release. The Victim Bill of Rights entitles all CORI-certified victims to receive advance notification whenever an offender is moved from a secure facility to a less secure facility, has been given a temporary, provisional or final release from custody, or escapes. If you are CORI-certified, the contact person at the county correctional facility where the offender is serving a sentence will provide this information to you.
When an inmate is to be released, the County Houses of Correction are required to notify victims in writing and by telephone in advance of the release. Because calculating the actual release date is complicated and can change with “good time” credits, and because the date often comes much sooner than a victim expects, victims who want to know an offender’s release date must get certified immediately and maintain current contact information with the Criminal History Systems Board.
Department of Correction
Victim Service Unit
999 Barretts Mill Road
West Concord, MA 01742
978-368-3618 or Toll Free 866-684-2846
The Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) oversees numerous adult correctional facilities throughout the state. The DOC’s mission is to promote public safety by incarcerating offenders while providing program opportunities designed to reduce recidivism, or further criminal behavior. These two goals help determine which correctional facility is most appropriate for the offender. Within the Department of Correction is the Victim Services Unit (VSU), which provides information, assistance and support to victims of crime and other concerned individuals whose offenders are in Department of Correction custody.
An important aspect of the Department of Correction’s role through the VSU is to provide victims with information about the correctional system and notification of an inmate’s custody status. The Victim Bill of Rights entitles CORI-certified victims to receive advance notification whenever an inmate is transferred to an institution that is lower than medium security, receives a final release date or receives an emergency escorted release. Victims will also be notified if the inmate dies. While extremely rare, escapes are the highest priority and properly certified victims are notified immediately. The DOC is able to notify victims as long as the victim has provided them with updated contact information throughout the inmate’s incarceration.