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Massachusetts Court Records

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The Massachusetts State Prison System

An individual can be imprisoned for a criminal offense in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This period of confinement can be served in a county’s jail (house of correction) or state prison. Offenders who enter the state prison system are under the supervision and custody of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (MADOC). The department is charged under Title VXIII, Chapter 124, Section 1 of the General Laws to maintain, care for, and see to the rehabilitation of persons incarcerated in state penal institutions. As of January 1, 2020, MA DOC had custody of 8, 292 inmates (Inmate and Prison Research Statistics)

What is the Difference Between Jail and Prison in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts. “jail” and “prison” are words used interchangeably when referring to the correctional facility where individuals are sent to serve out their criminal sentences. However, there is a significant difference between the two terms. Per MGL C.126 §4, a jail is a county correctional facility used to detain persons awaiting trial, persons arrested without a warrant and not eligible for bail, and persons sentenced to a term of imprisonment. In the state, the county jail is also known as the house of correction. However, some counties separate the functions of a jail and house of correction facility. While the jail holds individuals pretrial, the house of correction holds persons pretrial, and also, those who were sentenced to serve out a short term of imprisonment (2.5 years or less) per MGL C.126 §8. The county government manages the jail and house of correction facility.

Meanwhile, MGL C.125 §1 defines a prison as any structure or building used to manage, control, or rehabilitate persons who are civilly committed or criminally sentenced. Persons confined in this facility are either awaiting trial for a serious offense, committed for a crime in which the sentence is above 2.5 years, or civilly committed for addiction or treatment. The Massachusetts Department of Corrections controls and maintains the state prisons.

How Many Prisons are in Massachusetts?

There are 16 prison institutions in Massachusetts. These correctional facilities are run by MADOC and spread across the state. The prisons are categorized into 3 security levels: minimum/pre-release, minimum, and maximum security. The minimum/pre-release and medium-security facilities also serve as treatment centers. Below is a list of these facilities and their levels of security:

Minimum/Pre-Release:

  • Boston Pre-Release Center
  • Pondville Correctional Center
  • South Middlesex Correctional Center
  • Northeastern Correctional Center

Minumum Security:

  • Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center (MASAC) - Plymouth

Medium/Minimum Security:

  • Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) - Shirley
  • North Central Correctional Institution
  • Old Colony Correctional Center

Medium Security:

  • Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) - Norfolk
  • Bridgewater State Hospital
  • Lemuel Shattuck Hospital Correctional Unit
  • Massachusetts Treatment Center
  • Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) - Concord
  • Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) - Framingham

Maximum Security:

  • Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center
  • Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) - Cedar Junction

How do I search for an Inmate in Massachusetts State Prison?

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections provides an online tool to search for inmates incarcerated in the state correctional institutions. To locate an inmate using this tool, interested parties must enter an inmate’s complete first/last name or their commitment number. There is no fee required to lookup an inmate using this tool.

Are Incarceration Records Public in Massachusetts?

MGL C.127 §2 requires the state and county correctional facilities to keep comprehensive and accurate records of inmates. These records are known as incarceration records, or more popularly, inmate or prison records. As described in the public policies of the Department of Corrections, 103 CMR 156.01 (3), an inmate record contains the information of a person’s sentencing, criminal history, classification, disciplinary details, activities (work release, education, achievements, etc.), and any other inmate-related information. The accessibility of these records to the public is regulated by the Massachusetts Public Records Law. As such, members of the public can typically obtain these records from MADOC unless the request is for information restricted by law or prohibited from disclosure by the department’s policies.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How to Look Up Jail Records in Massachusetts?

Jail records are created by the sheriff and police departments in Massachusettes. These records contain the personal and criminal details of persons who served or are serving sentences in the county jails or houses of correction. The local Sheriff may be contacted for this information. This also applies to arrest records and criminal history information kept at the county level.

There are two ways to obtain criminal history information at the state level: by conducting a name-based or fingerprint-based record search. Statewide arraignment information can be obtained using the Massachusettes Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) tool. CORI only processes name-based search requests according to a person’s level of access. The maximum processing time for these requests is 10 days. Whereas, an arrest record can be obtained by submitting a fingerprint at any state-approved fingerprint enrollment center.

Can Jail Records be Expunged in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts law does not provide for the expungement of jail records. The law only specifies sealing and expungement for arrest or criminal records under MGL C.258D §7. More information on the state law for expungement or sealing of criminal records, as well as the different types of expungement and persons who are eligible to expunge or seal their criminal records, can be obtained from the official website of the State of Massachusetts.

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