DESPITE HARSH LOCKDOWNS, NEARLY HALF OF WOMEN IN MASSACHUSETTS PRISONS CAUGHT THE CORONAVIRUS
June 23, 2020
By Shabnam Danesh
Advocates Say Release—Not Solitary Confinement—Is the Right Response
In April, as coronavirus swept through MCI Framingham, Massachusetts’ sole women’s prison, Kimya Foust said she and a group of other incarcerated women who had been exposed were moved into a large, shared quarantine unit.
“This place did not take the proper precautions to stop spreading this disease when it started,” she wrote. “I am quarantined in a giant room because my cellmate has tested positive for the coronavirus two days ago. So I am still at risk of catching this vicious disease.” She complained of mouse droppings and lack of hot water in the makeshift quarantine unit.
By mid-June, 85 of the 183 women in MCI Framingham—46 percent—had tested positive for the virus, according to Massachusetts Department of Correction (MDOC) data compiled by the ACLU of Massachusetts. Throughout the state’s prisons, 400 incarcerated people and 192 staff members have tested positive.
Advocates and lawmakers say that large-scale release is the best way to protect incarcerated people from coronavirus. But according to the ACLU dataset, as of June 17 only 13 people have been released from Massachusetts prisons for coronavirus-related concerns.