2 MASS. PRISONERS HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19 DIE A DAY AFTER BEING GRANTED MEDICAL PAROLE
Dec 1, 2020
By Deborah Becker
Criminal defense attorneys are criticizing how the Massachusetts Department of Correction handles medical parole cases and reports prisoner deaths from COVID-19 following several outbreaks of the virus inside state correctional facilities over the past six weeks.
The attorneys pointed to the deaths of two prisoners who were granted medical parole only after they were hospitalized with COVID-19. In both cases, the men died less than a day after they were granted medical parole. The granting of parole formally removed the men from DOC custody, so the deaths may not be included in the state’s reporting of COVID-19 prisoner deaths. It further appears that the men were no longer considered to be in custody, as neither death was reported to the state medical examiner — a requirement for when any prisoner dies.
Milton Rice, a 76-year-old prisoner at MCI-Norfolk, died on Nov. 25 in a local hospital where he was taken after he tested positive for the coronavirus two weeks earlier. Rice applied for medical parole back in March, writing “with my underlying health condition and compromised immune system issues, should I contract the COVID-19 virus it would more than likely be fatal for me.” His attorney said he was granted medical parole the day before he died. The DOC confirmed Rice was released from its custody as of Nov. 24. The cause of his death is listed as COVID-19 pneumonia.
“I think that the reason for granting medical parole, as far as I can tell, would be to avoid having to report another COVID death of a prisoner within the Department of Correction,” said Lauren Petit, an attorney with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts who worked on Rice’s medical parole case. “I don’t see any other way to interpret what happened. The request was denied and only granted once the person was on life support, and his circumstances hadn’t changed at all.”