CONCORD, MASS. (WHDH) - Massachusetts’ more than 140-year-old prison in Concord will soon shut down under a new state budget plan outlined by Gov. Maura Healey on Wednesday. 

Opened in 1878, the medium-security MCI-Concord men’s prison is the oldest operating facility of its kind in the state. 

Now set to close, the prison’s staff and approximately 300 inmates will be relocated to other nearby facilities, according to the Healey administration. 

“Amid the state’s lowest prison population in 35 years, this action reflects the Department’s ongoing efforts to enhance operational efficiency, advance cost-saving solutions, and deepen investments in programming and services,” the state Department of Correction said in a statement.

The plan to close MCI-Concord comes as part of Healey’s newly-proposed 2025 fiscal year budget. 

In addition to nearly $16 million in immediate savings, officials on Wednesday said the closure will negate the need for $190 million in capital projects for decarbonization, cooling and deferred maintenance at the prison.

“We just know that the purpose that it’s being used for right now doesn’t really rightsize to the moment or the needs that we face,” Healey said during her budget presentation.

Aging prison ‘has become too costly to maintain’

MCI-Concord currently operates at 50% capacity, according to the Department of Correction.

With empty space and aging infrastructure, officials said the facility “has become too costly to maintain and requires significant investments.” 

Among details, the Department of Correction said officials plan to finish transferring MCI-Concord prisoners and staff by July 1. Prisoners will complete a reclassification process as part of their transfer, officials said, before being taken to “an appropriate facility.”

Officials said they are also developing plans to transition existing rehabilitation programs at MCI-Concord to other state facilities.

State Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy on Wednesday said the decision to consolidate resources “makes financial sense.”

Department of Correction Commissioner Carol Mici in a separate statement said the move “underscores the Department’s commitment to responsible stewardship of taxpayer resources while ensuring the fulfillment of our rehabilitative mission.” 

Outside the Healey administration, State Sen. Jamie Eldridge praised the MCI-Concord closure.

“It’s a very outdated facility, so it seems to be the right one to close,” said Eldridge, who serves as the chair of the senate’s judiciary committee and co-chair of the criminal justice reform caucus.

Correction officers union reacts to news of closure

While public officials celebrated Wednesday’s news, the Mass Correction Officers Federated Union shared its reaction in a statement, saying “the closing of MCI Concord or any other prison will burden our already violent and dangerous prisons.”

The union said the process of reclassifying inmates “will potentially place higher risk inmates in lower-level facilities thus placing our officer’s safety at risk.”

Officials continued, asking state officials to stop plans to close MCI-Concord “until a comprehensive plan is in place.”

“This closing will no doubt place our officers throughout the Commonwealth in grave danger,” the union said, in part.

Property to be made available for redevelopment under plan

MCI-Concord is one of two Department of Corrections facilities in Concord. The other facility, the Northeastern Correctional Center, is described as a minimum and pre-release facility housing criminally sentenced males.

Outside Concord, the Department of Corrections system includes several remaining medium-security prisons housing men. 

Among facilities, MCI-Norfolk is the state’s largest medium-security men’s prison, according to the Department of Corrections.

The plan to close MCI-Concord will require approval from the state legislature to move forward. 

If the closure does move forward, the facility will shutter just over two years after officials announced plans to wind down operations at MCI-Cedar Junction, a similarly historic maximum-security prison in Walpole.

The MCI-Cedar Junction closure was slated to begin in the summer of 2022 and continue in phases until 2024.

Back in Concord, where the state is eyeing a faster timeline to move prisoners to new facilities, officials on Wednesday said they plan to eventually dispose of the MCI-Concord property to make it available for “potential redevelopment to benefit the surrounding community.” 

Though the exact future of the site remains up for debate, local State Rep. Simon Cataldo said community feedback will be crucial.

“The key is going to be making sure that we have strong community engagement and that we’re thoughtful about all the different options and possibilities that are presented by what’s a really big change for the Concord community,” Cataldo said.

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