The Department of Correction assigns prisoners to different facilities based on their classification score and the discretion of the DOC Classification Division. The security levels are: pre-release, minimum, medium and maximum.
The classification process is laid out in these documents:
- DOC regulations on classification, 103 CMR 420, including the Inmate Placement Request/Appeal Form and
- DOC Classification Manual
The following information is meant to provide a general overview of the Department of Correction disciplinary process; it may not be entirely up-to-date and is not intended to take the place of legal research or consultation with an attorney.
Generally speaking, prisoners are assigned a number of points based on factors such as the kind of crime they were convicted of committing, the programs they have participated in, their age, employment and whether they have been engaged in violence or attempted to escape.
The classification score corresponds to a security level, as follows:
- 12 or more points = Maximum
- 5 to 11 points = Medium
- 4 or fewer points = Minimum or below
However, these scores may be changed by mandatory or discretionary “overrides.” DOC officials are allowed, or required, to change a prisoner’s point score based on certain additional factors, including: pending disciplinary reports, immigration status, “institutional negative adjustment” and prior criminal history. PLS has challenged the Classification Manual as unlawful because it was implemented without an opportunity for public comment, and has challenged two provisions of the Manual as arbitrary and capricious.
Prisoners are classified when they enter DOC custody. A correctional program officer (CPO) fills out the Objective Classification Form, which is then reviewed by a “classification board,” which is a three-person panel of DOC staff members. Prisoners participate in the initial classification hearing and may make a statement orally or in writing. The classification board recommends a decision, which is reviewed by the prison’s Director of Classification and then to the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Classification at DOC headquarters. The Assistant Deputy Commissioner either approves the Classification Board’s recommendation or makes her own decision about what custody level the individual will be assigned to.
Prisoners’ custody level assignments are periodically reviewed for reclassification. Reclassification takes place after one year, or after six months if a discretionary override was used or the prisoner is in minimum or pre-release. Prisoners with parole reserve dates are reviewed for reclassification every 30 days, and prisoners are reviewed within 30 days of release from the Departmental Disciplinary Unit (DDU).
Prisoners may request early reclassification by submitting a written request to the institutional Director of Classification, stating the reasons for the request.
Before a reclassification hearing is held, a CPO will interview the prisoner and then inform him or her of the classification score and any applicable overrides (or “Internal Classification Status Review results”). Then, a classification board will hold a hearing and notify the prisoner of its recommendation. This recommendation is then reviewed by the institutional Director of Classification and a final decision is made by the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Classification.
Prisoners may be represented by an attorney at the reclassification hearing whenever they are being considered for transfer to a higher security level.
If a prisoner disagrees with the classification board’s recommendation or wants to submit other information for the Assistant Deputy Commissioner to consider, he or she may file an appeal within five business days of written notification of the classification board’s recommendation. Prisoners should submit a placement request/ appeal even if they agree with the classification board’s recommendation because this is the only opportunity to state a preference about where they are assigned or to present any information for the Assistant Deputy Commissioner’s consideration. The Assistant Deputy Commissioner’s decision cannot be appealed.
If you have a question about the status of a pending decision regarding your loved one’s classification status, you may contact the DOC Classification Division at
Carol Mici, Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Classification
Department of Correction
P.O. Box 188
Norfolk, MA 02056
Phone: (508) 850-7745