DAY-LONG HEARING ON CORRECTIONS SEES PLEAS FOR FREE CALLS AND AN END TO LIFE W/OUT PAROLE
October 7, 2021
By Jean Trounstine
On Tuesday, Oct. 5, a legislative hearing held by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary highlighted the work activists across Massachusetts are doing to end racism and injustice in the criminal legal system.
One-hundred sixty people, representing more than 60 grassroots organizations, signed up to testify on at least one of 50-plus bills concerning “Correctional Services & Sentencing.”
Four bills garnered the most attention, focusing on issues covered in depth by DigBoston and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism in previous reporting: the campaign for free phone calls behind bars, as well as those to end the sentence of life without parole (LWOP), revise conditions of parole supervision, and stop the building of new prisons and jails.
In a remote hearing that lasted eight-and-a-half hours, along with 15 state lawmakers and other officials, members of the public testified for three minutes each about why bills should or should not become law. Joint Senate and House committees require public hearings for bills that they consider.
Attorney Bonnie Tennerielo said that in 2018, prisoners in Massachusetts, a “largely Black and brown and low income” population,” “spent $25,000,000 to keep in touch with loved ones.” The Prisoners’ Legal Services lawyer notes that “$7,000,000 of those monies were in “commissions” which were “really just kickbacks…the phone companies take this money from consumers and give it right back to the prisons and jails.” An Act relative to telephone service for inmates in all correctional and other penal institutions in the Commonwealth, filed by Rep. Chynah Tyler, demands “voice communication service free of charge” instead of what is an average of 14 cents per minute consumers are paying in Mass. prisons and jails.