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State prison overhaul planned, with Bridgewater getting inmates with mental health issues

By Maureen Boyle
GateHouse News Service
Posted Oct 24, 2008 @ 03:18 AM
Last update Oct 24, 2008 @ 05:02 AM

The state is looking at creating "specialty" prisons - with Bridgewater the center for inmates with mental health issues - as part of a master plan that could trim costs, a state representative said Thursday.
State Rep. David Flynn, D-Bridgewater, told The Enterprise Thursday that he was briefed on the state's still-to-be-finalized master plan for corrections this week. He was awaiting more specifics on how it would affect Bridgewater.
However, he said he expected Bridgewater would be the central prison for all mentally ill inmates.
He said the aim of the plan is to trim costs, particularly in transportation, and centralize services for inmates with specific needs.
A spokesman for the state Department of Correction, Diane Wiffin, said the state is considering concentrating inmates with mental health needs at the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater.
"The plans are still being worked on," she said.
Old Colony Correctional Center is now a medium-security prison in the 30-acre Bridgewater Correctional Complex. The complex now also includes Bridgewater State Hospital, Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center, and the Treatment Center.
Wiffin said the master plan was spurred by the need for more lower-security beds as well as providing services to inmates efficiently.
"It is a plan that is still being formulated," she said.
Preliminary plans also call for:
MCI-Cedar Junction in Walpole to be the first stop for male prisoners to be classified after they are sentenced. Presently, the prisoners first go to MCI-Concord.MCI-Concord may be converted to a general population, medium-security prison.There are plans to double bunk prisoners in the maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
Flynn said the master plan is expected to be done and released in December.
The state representative said it was unclear how many prisoners would be in Bridgewater or what the staffing is.
"I'm more concerned about how it affects those on the outside than those on the inside," Flynn said.
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