Lawsuit seeks release of sentenced prisoners during coronavirus

April 17th, 2020

By Sarah Betancourt
April 17, 2020
Commonwealth Magazine

Prisoner at MCI-Framingham talks about conditions, new roommate

A NEW CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT filed in the state’s highest court by advocates aims to release sentenced and civilly committed prisoners to stem the spread of coronavirus in prisons. 

Prisoners’ Legal Services filed the suit on behalf of 11 named inmates and others “similarly situated,” saying that the Department of Correction has “failed to implement readily available measures to save lives by radically reducing the number of people in prisons.”

The lawsuit said the state is failing to maintain social distancing between inmates. “Prisoners continue to be housed in close contact with each other in dormitory-style settings and double cells that do not meet the minimum space requirements established by the Department of Public Health,” attorneys wrote.

In a previous decision by a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court —filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts and Committee for Public Counsel Services —the state was ordered to release inmates who were awaiting trials or show why they shouldn’t be released. That decision resulted in more than 400 prisoners being released.

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