Massachusetts Considers Building Prison Ship To Ease Overcrowding

Governor William Weld of Massachusetts is preparing a proposal to build a 600- to 800-bed prison ship to ease the chronic overcrowding that plagues state and county jails.

The vessel would be docked in an industrial area along the Boston waterfront or the Mystic River, with easy access to local courthouses.

A source in the administration said the governor's proposal would probably involve leasing a decommissioned vessel, paying to renovate it in Quincy, Mass., and remaking it into a prison ship. The vessel would house both state and county prisoners to alleviate overcrowding at all levels.

For the past five years, New York City has used four floating jails in a first-of-its-kind experiment in the U.S., and corrections officials have deemed it a marked success. A fifth prison ship, the largest in the fleet, with a price tag of $165 million, is expected to be delivered by February and moored on the East River.

Reasons for the success include: a prison ship costs a third less than constructing a prison on land; it takes only six months to build; and there is a far slimmer chance of local opposition because the prisons are docked near urban, industrial areas.

Other stories from November 1991 issue


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