The institution was founded by sociologist and penologist Howard Belding Gill in 1927 as the first “community-based” prison in the country. Today, MCI-Norfolk houses 1500 men in a medium security context.
The largest prison in the state, the facility includes eighteen dormitory-style living units with a range of other buildings that include the Community Services Division (CSD). Built as part of the original plan for the prison, the CSD today includes a synagogue, Muslim prayer space, chapel for Christian worship, and auditorium. A Native American sweat lodge is located in another part of the facility.
Chaplains offer counseling and a range of religious services at MCI-Norfolk with the support of a large number of volunteers. Inmates identify with religious traditions ranging from Protestant, Catholic and Jewish to Quaker, Rastafarian, Wiccan, Native American traditions, Scientology, Buddhism and others. Inmates may visit religious and spiritual spaces during designated times.
A small room designated as a synagogue can seat 10 to 15 people and holds a Torah in an Arc. A Christian chapel called “Bethany” hosts at least two services in different religious traditions each day. And the Muslim prayer room is used regularly. The Native American Sweat Lodge was built about 20 years ago and is used regularly for ceremonies under the guidance of a Native American chief volunteer and appropriate MCI staff. Trees near the lodge are labeled “truth,” “love,” and “transition.”
For more information: https://www.mass.gov/locations/mci-norfolk