A Turnaround: At last, decency at Bridgewater

September 14, 2017
The Boston Globe
By Yvonne Abraham

Just like that.

For decades, Bridgewater State Hospital was a hellhole, the heinous treatment of mentally ill inmates there the subject of countless exposes and lawsuits. Yet, though this place was the moral shame of Massachusetts, nothing ever changed.

Until, quite suddenly, it did.

Who knew this could happen? Only everybody. But there was no political gain in ending the suffering at Bridgewater, so it didn’t happen.

Jim Pingeon knew. The attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services has been fighting for more humane conditions at Bridgewater for 30 years. The state always came up with cheap excuses for its inaction: that inmates here were more violent than those in states that took a less brutal approach; that they have higher rates of substance abuse; that laws here made it harder to subdue them.

“This puts the lie to all the excuses the Department of Correction made for years,” Pingeon said. “How can you deny it now?”

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