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Why not release female prisoners safely?

Submitting this letter were Hannah Long and Rachel Roth, both of Arlington.Prison image

In its most recent budget, the Massachusetts Legislature mandated the Department of Correction (DOC) to “take all measures possible to release, transition to home confinement, or furlough” individuals “who can be safely released” from incarceration because of the ongoing threat of Covid-19 infection in the state’s prisons. This evidence-based plan was developed by formerly incarcerated black women and campaigned for by Families for Justice as Healing, Building Up People Not Prisons, public-health experts and many others.

Why, then, is the DOC moving women from the South Middlesex Correctional Center, in Framingham, to a number of jails across the state instead of releasing them? All women confined at South Middlesex are either classified as minimum security or are on prerelease status, already on their way to going home. There is no question they meet the criteria for release.

Medical experts warn against moving people from one prison to another, because Covid-19 outbreaks commonly follow such moves. The DOC plans to move some women to the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction, in Billerica, even though women have never been incarcerated there.

We thank our Arlington delegation for their leadership on issues of public health. We now call upon them to intervene with the DOC and the Attorney General’s Office to put a stop to this risky, unwarranted plan and to hold the DOC accountable.

References:

Legislative instruction to release people from prison: Section 8900-0001 of the FY2021 budget passed and signed in December 2020.

“Moving People—and Coronavirus—From Prison to Prison,” by Cary Aspinwall and Ed White, The Marshall Project, Dec. 21, 2020.


This review was published Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.

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