Madelyn Linsenmeir to Cops in Booking Video: ‘I’m Very Ill Right Now’

January 15th, 2019

Seven Days
January 14th, 2019
By Taylor Dobbs

Video of the booking room at the Springfield, Mass., police department on September 29 captured a distressed Madelyn Linsenmeir asking for water and medical care as officers methodically went through the booking routine and ignored her requests.

Several days later, on October 7, the Vermont woman died at a Massachusetts hospital. She’d battled drug addiction for years.

poignant obituary for Linsenmeir, written by her sister Kate O’Neill, went viral. O’Neill wrote that the family hoped her sister’s story would help others let go of the stigma related to addiction. (After it ran, Seven Days hired O’Neill for a special reporting project on the ongoing opiate crisis.)

The family, along with the ACLU and Prisoners’ Legal Services, said Linsenmeir should have received immediate medical care when she was arrested. Both organizations are working with the family to figure out what went wrong.

“All officers are trained to identify the signs and symptoms of substance use, and every police department has a policy requiring officers to get medical attention for sick and injured prisoners,” Prisoners’ Legal Services attorney David Milton said. “No one should be denied medical care in a police lockup.”

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Officer’s alleged assault on 86-year-old inmate shines light on graying prison population

January 3rd, 2019

The Boston Herald
December 29, 2018
By Alexi Cohan

MCI Souza-Baranowski prison guard Joseph Sampson, 35, of Westminster is charged with assault and battery with serious bodily harm on a person over the age of 60, after allegedly administering three punches on 86-year-old convict Paul Smith. Sampson was arraigned Dec. 21 in Clinton District Court, posted $500 cash bail and has been placed on paid administrative leave. Authorities have said only that there was an altercation between the pair.

Elizabeth Matos, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, said many correctional officers are not equipped to handle the mental and physical health issues that elderly inmates pose. She said this leads to abuse and neglect among elderly prisoners.

“I think that officers often lack training and lack the experience to deal with that population, and that can lead to a lot of problems,” said Matos, who added that inmates, due to the stresses of prison life, tend to age more quickly than the regular population.

Matos said elderly inmates — despite histories of violent crime — are a low-risk population who are “fairly vulnerable to being assaulted by other prisoners and staff.” Overall, she said, Souza-Baranowski has a disturbing record of guard violence against prisoners of all ages — with her group receiving 163 complaints from inmates in the last two years.

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Looking to bring order to unruly encounters

November 14th, 2018

The Telegram & Gazette
November 13, 2018
By Prithvi Tikhe

BOSTON – The lack of uniform standardized procedures across the state to remove prisoners from cells may contribute to incidents of excessive use of force at a number of Massachusetts prisons and houses of correction, according to a state lawmaker who has called for the creation of standards to avoid incidents.

“We want all prisoners and inmates to be treated well and with dignity because we know those same folks will be returning to our neighborhoods within Worcester,” said state Rep. Mary S. Keefe, D-Worcester, who introduced a bill last year that would require the commissioner of the Department of Correction to create uniform standards for emergency and planned cell extractions (removing inmates from cells) and governing the use of chemical agents between state prisons and county jails and houses of correction in Massachusetts.

According to data for the last two years, from Nov. 11, 2016, to Nov. 13, 2018, there were 13 reports of excessive use of force at Worcester County House of Correction, according to Jesse White, a staff attorney for the Prison Brutality Project of Prisoners’ Legal Services.

“This makes Worcester County the fourth highest county in the state for reported excessive use of force, after Suffolk County and Bristol County, each of which have had 19 reports, and Essex County, which had 14 reports,” Ms. White said.


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State investigators concealed degree of Aaron Hernandez’s drug use prior to suicide

October 30th, 2018

The Boston Globe
October 30, 2018
By Beth Healy

State investigators had more evidence than previously disclosed that former New England Patriot star Aaron Hernandez was using a dangerous drug in prison prior to his death — information that was concealed in public records and from his family and lawyers.

An inmate interview with officials the day Hernandez died, April 19, 2017, was partially redacted from a 132-page public report. The hidden portion, which the Globe was able to review last week for the first time, said: “He’s spent the last two days smoking K2 in his cell and he wasn’t in the right frame of mind.”

Prison advocates and inmates say the prevalence of K2, even at Souza-Baranowski, the maximum-security facility in Shirley, is widely known.

“We have been hearing more and more about K2 in the prisons, and particularly SBCC,’’ or Souza-Baranowski, said Elizabeth Matos, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, a nonprofit in Boston. “We have clients call us complaining about the odor and complaining of second-hand smoke. Guards also complain about the second-hand smoke.”

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Restrictive state prison visitation policies spur outrage, lawsuits

September 17th, 2018

June 30, 2018
By Shira Schoenberg

Lucinda Fisher’s son is in maximum security prison.

Under new regulations that went into effect in March, her son is only allowed to put five people on his list of approved visitors. He can update the list every six months.

“I have a huge family, my son has siblings,” Fisher said.

Fisher looked at Department of Correction officials at a public hearing in Boston on Thursday. “Can either of you pick five people you deal with on a regular basis for six months?” she asked. “Can you narrow it down to five? Can Governor Baker narrow it down to five?”

The new policies, Fisher said, seem to be “geared toward breaking the families, breaking the inmates.”

The Department of Correction’s new visiting procedures were launched earlier this year, spurring outrage among prisoners, family members and their advocates – and prompting four separate lawsuits, which are pending.

The advocates say the new visitation policies make it harder for inmates to maintain relationships with their families and friends and make it less likely they will be able to successfully reintegrate into the community.

“The evidence supports that efforts should be made to make visitation more open and more accessible wherever possible,” said Jesse White, staff attorney for Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts. “Over the last year, DOC has been moving in the wrong direction on visitation, substantially restricting and reducing visitation without any rational basis.”

According to Prisoners’ Legal Services, Massachusetts is now one of the most restrictive states in the country with regard to visitation.

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