New Legal Action To Free Massachusetts Prisoners Due To COVID-19

April 15th, 2020

By Deborah Becker
April 15, 2020
WBUR

Massachusetts Prisoners rights advocates are pursuing two new legal avenues to reduce the number of people incarcerated in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Advocates say the state is not responding to the pandemic quickly enough and is endangering the health of those in custody.

Prisoners Legal Services of Massachusetts has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 11 prisoners and “all others similarly situated.” It asks that the state take steps to get people out of correctional settings, such as releasing those who have almost completed their sentences, those approved for parole, those with health issues and those civilly committed for addiction treatment.

The suit says because prisoners live in close quarters and many are older or have health conditions, more people should be released to mitigate the spread of the virus. While the Supreme Judicial Court this month ruled that some prisoners are eligible to seek release, the suit says more needs to be done.

“While a step in the right direction, that decision doesn’t provide enough relief to stop the virus from continuing to spread, particularly in the crowded prison system,” said Elizabeth Matos, executive director of Prisoners Legal Services “We undoubtedly need broader relief to meaningfully reduce the risk of COVID-19 for both incarcerated people and correctional staff.”

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