BOSTON (WHDH) - Elected officials and prison reform advocates called on Gov. Charlie Baker to release more prisoners as coronavirus cases continue to rise at the state’s correctional facilities.
“The close quarters and lack of sanitary practices make our prisons and jails petri dishes for Covid-19 spread,” Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins said at a protest on the steps of the State House Tuesday. “This is an avoidable crisis,”
Rollins and other advocates said prisons are overcrowded, unsanitary and limited in health care. Last week, 140 inmates tested positive for the coronavirus at MCI-Norfolk and 19 inmates tested positive at MCI-Shirley, halting visits at both prisons, and 10 inmates have died of the virus this year.
The state released hundreds of prisoners earlier this year, but Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said more are still incarcerated.
“These are elderly folks, those with underlying medical conditions, juveniles and others in pretrial detention, pregnant individuals and those nearing the end of their sentences,” Pressley said. “With the stroke of a pen Governor Baker can release incarcerated individuals across our commonwealth who pose no risk to our communities but are at great risk themselves of contracting and suffering from COVID 19.”
Baker said the state Department of Correction has done “a terrific job” separating prisoners and providing PPE. But Darryl Jones, who spent 32 years in prison only to be exonerated for the crime he was charged with, said he knows small and unsanitary prison can be and that he hears from prisoners “every day” about their conditions.
“Somebody innocent is going to die in there too,” Jones said.
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