COVID-19

Please find below news and information about our response and recommendations regarding the humane treatment of prisoners during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) epidemic.


Updates

➤ June 2, 2020: 609 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths / 347 staff +

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today issued a mixed decision on the emergency request for a preliminary injunction in Foster v. Mici, the Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) lawsuit on behalf of incarcerated people who seek release to mitigate the dangerous spread of COVID-19 in the state’s jails and prisons. Please see our statement here.

Please see further testing info compiled by the ACLU from information provided by sheriffs and the DOC to the SJC here.

➤ May 28, 2020: 589 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths / 337 staff +

Today PLS sent a letter to the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and ICE raising concerns about the use of segregation for ICE detainees. Read our letter here.

➤ May 27, 2020: 578 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths / 334 staff +

➤ May 20, 2020: 534 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths / 309 staff +

➤ May 14, 2020: 511 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths / 296 staff +

Today PLS sent a letter to public officials asking for the release of immigrant detainees as part of a national #FreeThemAll day of action.

➤ May 13, 2020: 507 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths / 293 staff +

➤ May 11, 2020: 501 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths / 286 staff +

➤ May 7, 2020: 486 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths / 280 staff +

Today at 1pm PLS will be presenting oral arguments in Foster v. Mici, our suit seeking decarceration in order to slow the incidence of COVID-19-related illness and death. Stream it live here.

Today at 3pm PLS will be submitting testimony to the Criminal Justice Reform Caucus‘s forum on COVID-19 Decarceration in Prisons & Jails. More information here and read the testimony of our Director here.

➤ May 6, 2020: 486 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths / 278 staff +

➤ April 30, 2020: 376 prisoners + / 8 prisoner deaths

The first county prisoner died yesterday, a 41-year-old who was incarcerated at the Middleton House of Correction.

➤ April 25, 2020: 279 prisoners + / 7 prisoner deaths / 209 staff +

➤ April 24, 2020: +238 prisoners + / 7 prisoner deaths / 200 staff +

➤ April 22, 2020: 222 prisoners + / 7 prisoner deaths / 179 staff +

Two incarcerated people in Massachusetts died from COVID-19 today.

Please see our letter explaining our lawsuit seeking the release of prisoners in response to the pandemic here.

➤ April 17, 2020: 180 prisoners + / 5 prisoner deaths / 139 staff +

Today PLS Filed suit to significantly reduce the state’s prison population in order to slow the incidence of COVID-19-related illness and death in the Commonwealth’s prisons. Read the complaint here and the PI memo here.

➤ April 16, 2020: 169 prisoners + / 5 prisoner deaths / 135 staff +

A fifth prisoner has died from COVID-19, this time from MCI-Shirley.

➤ April 14, 2020: 140 prisoners + / 4 prisoner deaths / 120 staff +

➤ April 13, 2020: 117 prisoners + / 4 prisoner deaths / 87 staff +

A fourth prisoner has died from COVID-19.

➤ April 12, 2020: 112 prisoners + / 3 prisoner deaths / 87 staff +

View and explore data provided by the ACLU of MA about the numbers and locations of positive COVID-19 cases here.

➤ April 10, 2020: 84 prisoners + / 3 prisoner deaths / 75 staff +

➤ April 9, 2020: 68 prisoners + / 3 prisoner deaths / 59 staff +

➤ April 7, 2020: 59 prisoners + / 3 prisoner deaths / 59 staff +

Please see growth rate comparisons here.

➤ April 6, 2020: 37 prisoners + / 3 prisoner deaths / 46 staff +

DOC: 32 prisoners, 17 staff, 9 medical staff, 3 prisoner deaths; County/HOC: 2 prisoners, 18 staff

➤ April 4, 2020: 27 prisoners + / 3 prisoner deaths / 35 staff +

Today, the third COVID-19 positive prisoner died.

➤ April 3, 2020: 27 prisoners + / 2 prisoner deaths / 35 staff +

Please see our statement regarding today’s decision in SJC-12926 here.

DOC: 25 prisoners, 15 DOC staff, 2 medical staff. County jails/HOC: 2 prisoners, 18 staff

➤ April 2, 2020: 26 prisoners + / 1 prisoner death / 29 staff +

Today PLS submitted a letter in response to the Court’s Order of April 1, 2020 requiring the DOC and Sheriffs to report on the distance between prisoners in sleeping arrangements, dining and recreation.

Today the first prisoner in Massachusetts died who had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Confirmed cases include:
– Mass. Treatment Center: 23 prisoners, 4 staff
– MCI-Shirley: 1 prisoner, 2 staff
– MCI-Framingham: 2 staff
– SBCC: 1 staff
– Bristol County: 1 nurse
– Hampden County: 3 staff
– Middlesex County: 2 prisoners
– Norfolk County sheriff’s office: 1 staff
– Plymouth County: 1 staff
– Essex County: 1 staff
– Central Office: 2 staff

➤ April 1, 2020: 20 prisoners + / 22 staff +

In addition to the positive cases listed below, officials have confirmed that two staff members at MCI-Framingham as well as one prisoner at MCI-Shirley have tested positive for COVID-19.

➤ March 31, 2020: 19 prisoners + / 20 staff +

Updated positive cases can be found here.

Today at 10am, the SJC will hear arguments in Committee for Public Counsel Services v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court, a lawsuit seeking the release of many prisoners. PLS has filed both an amicus letter in support of this lawsuit as well as a motion to intervene to include more prisoners in the criteria for release.

➤ March 30, 2020: 19 prisoners + / 9 staff +

Updated positive cases in Massachusetts Treatment Center, MCI-Plymouth, and Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth Counties can be found here.

➤ March 29, 2020: 12 prisoners + / 8 staff +

There are now twelve prisoners and seven corrections staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Massachusetts. The first US prisoner to die from COVID-19 was announced late Saturday – Patrick Jones, a 49-year-old prisoner in Louisiana who was serving a 27-year prison term for a drug charge, died on 3/28.

➤ March 28, 2020: 11 prisoners + / 6 staff +

There are now ten prisoners who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Massachusetts Treatment Center and five corrections staff (three at the treatment center, one at MCI-Shirley, and one at the central office). One prisoner has tested positive at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction in Billerica.

➤ March 27, 2020 9 prisoners + / 4 staff +

Today PLS filed an amicus curiae letter in support of the ACLU/MACDL lawsuit urging the immediate reduction of prison and jail populations in MA. Read our letter here and read filings from partner organizations and others here.

One prisoner has tested postive for COVID-19 at the Middlesex Jail and House of Correction.

➤ March 26, 2020 8 prisoners + / 4 staff +

Today PLS signed on to a letter in partnership with the Center for Public Representation and others regarding the need for statewide guidelines preventing discriminatory allocation of life-saving medical care here.

➤ March 24, 2020 8 prisoners + / 4 staff +

There are now 8 prisoners (all at MTC) and 3 correctional staff (2 at MTC/1 at MCI-Shirley) who have tested positive for COVID-19. One Plymouth Sheriff’s Department employee has also tested positive.

PLS is urging all interested parties to call their legislators to urge them to sign on to HD 4963, “An Act Regarding COVID-19 and Decarceration.” Read the PLS fact sheet here.

➤ March 22, 2020 3 prisoners + / 1 staff +

Today, PLS in coalition with the Keep Families Together Coalition wrote to leadership to urge leaders to ensure maximum free access to telephone and video conferencing for prisoners. Read the letter here.

According to WHDH, there are now 3 prisoners who have tested positive for COVID-19 as well as 1 correctional officer.

➤ March 21, 2020 1 prisoner +

The first prisoner in Massachusetts has tested positive for COVID-19 at Massachusetts Treatment Center. See news regarding this here and here. Read our press release here.

➤ March 20, 2020

Today, PLS joined over 60 other organizations in sending a letter to New England ICE asking them to protect the health of immigrants in ICE custody in New England by releasing them from custody. You can read the letter here.

➤ March 19, 2020

Today, PLS joined 763 organizations in a letter to the Acting Director of ICE, calling for detainee releases, a cease to all local enforcement operations, and elimination of ICE check-ins and mandatory court appearances. You can read the letter here.

Today PLS also sent a letter to Massachusetts district attorneys regarding expediting the release of elderly and medically infirm incarcerated individuals. You can read this letter here.

➤ March 16, 2020

Today, PLS joined the Building Up People Not Prisons coalition calling for an urgent reduction in the prison population. Read the letter here.

➤ March 12, 2020

PLS has written to the Governor, the DOC Commissioner, the Sheriff’s Association, and the Secretary of Public Safety to ask that they immediately develop evidence-based and proactive plans for the prevention and management of COVID-19 in the Massachusetts Department of Correction and in our county jails. Incarcerated people are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. With that in mind, we have recommended the following:

  • Provide accessible education to prisoners, staff, and volunteers about best practices to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
  • Have a plan for staffing shortages in both staff roles and prisoner-filled roles
  • Provide adequate cleaning and hygiene supplies so that prisoners and staff can protect themselves
  • Have a clear and medically recommended plan for screening, housing, and treatment of people who have been exposed
  • Approve as many eligible people as possible for release on medical parole or furlough for those who are particularly vulnerable such as pregnant women
  • Refrain from adding people to our prison and jail system, including ICE detainees, during this pandemic and release pre-trial individuals who are in prisons and jails because they cannot afford bail
  • Release those eligible for parole and refrain from reincarcerating individuals in the community on technical parole or probation violations
  • Collect and retain data regarding COVID-19
  • In the event of restricted visitation, eliminate the costs of alternate communication such as phone calls and emails

Read the full letter here.

Important Documents and Links

March 11th Letter: Read our March 11th letter to state officials urging immediate action here.

Amicus Letter: On March 27, PLS filed an amicus curiae letter in support of the ACLU/MACDL lawsuit urging the immediate reduction of prison and jail populations in MA. Read our letter here and read filings from partner organizations and others here.

Letter in response to DOC & Sheriffs reporting on the distance between prisoners in sleeping arrangements, dining and recreation (April 2): read here.

Motion to Intervene (March 30): Please read our motion to intervene in the case above in order to include a greater number of prisoners in the criteria for release here.

First Case in MA Prisons: Read our March 21st press release regarding the first case of COVID-19 here.

Coalition Letter: Read a March 16th letter signed in coalition with The Building Up People Not Prisons Coalition here.

Medical Parole Letter: Read our March 19th letter to Massachusetts district attorneys regarding expediting the release/medical parole of elderly and medically infirm incarcerated individuals here.

Phone Calls: Read our March 20th letter in coalition with the Keep Families Together Coalition urging officials to ensure maximum access to telephone and video conferencing here.

Immigrant Detainees: Read our March 20th letter to New England ICE/Public Safety Officials signed in coalition with over 60 other organizations here. Read a March 19th letter signed in coalition with 762 other organizations calling for immediate action from ICE here. Read our May 14th letter to public officials urging the release of immigrant detainees as part of a national #FreeThemAll day of action here. Read our May 28th letter to the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and ICE raising concerns about the use of segregation for ICE detainees here.

Disability Discrimination: Read a March 26th letter sent to the Governor and other officials in partnership with the Center for Public Representation on regarding the need for statewide guidelines preventing discriminatory allocation of life-saving medical care here.

News/Press: View news and media related to COVID-19 in prisons here, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Share Your Concerns: To send us information about your loved one in prison, please fill out this form. * Please note that submission of this form does not indicate that we are opening a new intake for this particular concern; rather, we are using this information to advocate system wide for better protections.*

Partner Organizations: Many other organizations are also working to mobilize around the pandemic and may be helpful to you and your loved one. Please consider also contacting Families for Justice as Healing, the ACLU of MA, the Mass Bail Fund, Black & Pink, and others listed in the coalition letters above.

Legislation: Read the text of HD. 4963, “An Act Regarding Decarceration and COVID-19,” here. To view our fact sheet about the bill, please click here.

Contact Legislators: To contact your legislator, please click here.

Support Our Work: To support our work, please click here.