Editorial: The Horrors of Unfair Prison Visitation Practices

October 30th, 2019

Valley Advocate
October 30, 2019
Dave Eisenstadter

This treatment of people visiting their relatives in jail is unacceptable and is an affront to a vulnerable population. Last year, a comprehensive criminal justice bill was supposed to mandate more humane treatment of prisoners. But while the bill focused on some good topics, including bail reform, expungement, and increased use of diversionary programs, harsher visitation provisions were also enacted by the state’s Department of Corrections.

Northampton state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, a co-sponsor of the prison reform bill, told Adatia that the department enacted those visitation changes and is not fully complying with the reform bill. She specifically said that the Legislature asked the Department of Corrections to do one thing and it is doing another.

The new bill would disallow limiting unique individuals who can visit an inmate, loosen clothing restrictions, allow for reasonable touch among inmates and visitors, and otherwise facilitate more visits to inmates.

It is at the top of the list of legislative priorities for advocacy organization Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, which has assembled a fact sheet of the benefits of the bill. Among them are that prisoners who receive visits have fewer instances of misconduct, visitations help mitigate the risk for children with incarcerated parents of negative social outcomes and help the prisoners themselves when they re-enter society, and that visitations are crucial to the well-being of prisoners, their families, and the people who work in prison.

At the recent hearing, Prisoners’ Legal Services representative Bonnie Tenneriello, an attorney, called the current policies “nonsensical” and “contrary to the idea of rehabilitation and re-entry.”

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