bay state correctional center satellite view

The Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk.

NORFOLK — The town could find itself the home of another prison — an innovative women’s prison.

The state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance that handles real estate for the Department of Correction is moving forward with preliminary plans to build a new women’s prison at the Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk.

Bay State had housed male inmates but is now only home to DOC employees.

Norfolk also has MCI-Norfolk, the largest medium security prison in the state housing roughly 1,200 inmates, and Pondville Correctional Center, a minimum and pre-release facility.

The town receives state money as a payment in lieu of taxes that helps cover public safety and other town response to the prisons. That sum runs around $250,000 a year.

"I, for one, would welcome the project with the expectation that state prison mitigation funding would appropriately account for the increase in inmate population and local services," select board Chairman Kevin Kalkut said.

The state Designer Selection Board has chosen three design firms to submit plans for a new women’s prison to replace the outdated MCI-Framingham, which is the oldest women’s prison in the country.

The $50 million redevelopment project will involve demolishing some Bay State Correctional Center buildings, renovating others, and building at least one new building.

DOC officials want to see a new type of prison built for women.

Officials say a new prison would focus on higher standards for the women, including rehabilitation, mental and physical health, and vocational interests.

“It’s been a longtime goal of hers to have a facility that is more conducive for the females that we have in our custody, to really look at trauma-informed care,” said Jennifer Gaffney, speaking for DOC Commissioner Carol Mici, Commonwealth magazine reported.

Former prisoners and advocates have been fighting the plans, contending the estimated $50 million for the project could be better spent.

Families for Justice as Healing advocate for addressing the root causes of incarceration and rehabilitation instead of punitive actions.

Members are requesting the release of female prisoners and using the earmarked construction funding for reentry programs to help women dealing with past traumas such as rape, domestic violence, and poverty that often lead many to commit crimes.

A residential re-entry facility that would give the women support services is needed, the advocacy group says.

Despite planning for a new prison, DOC maintains no final decision has been made to close MCI-Framingham.

The prison dates to 1877 and several sections have had to close in recent years because of building problems related to its age.

The prison houses about 200 women, according to the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

The Designer Selection Board is scheduled to interview architect finalists March 3. The contract is for $650,000.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.