Concord, Massachusetts has been home to the state’s longest-running men’s prison for over a century. Opened in 1878 and formerly known as the Massachusetts Reformatory, the Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI)-Concord is now a medium-security facility and houses approximately 300 men, with a 752-person operation capacity. Over its long operational history, the prison has had a couple of notable inmates. They include Malcolm X, who was once incarcerated at the facility for 15 months, during which he was introduced to the Nation of Islam.

This January, Governor Maura Healey announced the closure of this facility, citing decreasing incarceration rates and increasing costs to maintain the property, including a building shut down due to asbestos mineral contamination. Current incarceration rates in Massachusetts are the lowest they have been in the past 35 years. The state has also announced plans to empty the prison by the summer, transferring all inmates and staff to other facilities.

Over the past decades, Massachusetts incarceration rates have fallen due to a variety of policies and programs. On a broader scale, there has been an overall decrease in drug charges leading to prison time, partially due to the legalization of marijuana. In addition, state-wide programs such as increased applicability of medical parole and access to classes and mental health care behind bars have reduced the prison population and the state’s recidivism rate. In 2007, the recidivism rate hovered around 40 percent, while in 2016 it had dropped closer to 30 percent. The closure of MCI-Concord represents the progress toward decarceration made over the past few decades.

Looking forward, the Concord community has the unique opportunity to redevelop this 60-acre property. Some hope that the land could become affordable housing, something that the town is in dire need of. Others theorize that the site will most likely become yet another enclave of over-priced suburban homes or even a shopping center. Some think that it could take Massachusetts decades to sell the land, as the slow wheels of bureaucracy turn, at which point priorities may have shifted. Of course, there is always the possibility that the state opts to keep the land for some other purpose. In selling the land, the state would likely hope to make a sizable amount of money, but it also can pursue affordable housing or other equity-based ideals.

While the long-term future of the Massachusetts Prison System and the land it owns remain in limbo, it is clear that the latter's closure marks state-wide progress, with more still needed in the coming years.