Department of Correction finally hires ombudsman
Advocates criticize selection of UMass Medical School
September 9, 2021
By Shira Schoenberg
AFTER A DELAY of several months, the Department of Correction has entered into a contract with the University of Massachusetts Medical School to create an ombudsman’s office within the department. But critics – including prisoners’ rights advocates and some lawmakers – are raising concerns about the appointment process and worry that the ombudsman’s office will not be truly independent.
Rep. Mary Keefe and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Democrats who co-chair the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, wrote in a letter to Correction Commissioner Carol Mici that the course of action DOC has taken “is antithetical to the intended purpose of the law” establishing the ombudsman’s post.
According to a statement from a group of prisoners’ rights groups – Black and Pink Massachusetts, the Building Up People Not Prisons Coalition, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, and Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts – epidemiologist Monik Jimenez was vetted for the position by the attorney general’s office and the Department of Public Health and put forward for the role in March. She was never hired, however, which the groups attribute to the Department of Correction not offering Jimenez the resources and hiring autonomy necessary to create an independent office.