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PLS has limited resources which restricts our ability to respond to every issue that could benefit from advocacy. As a result, we have created an extensive library of self-help materials we distribute to people incarcerated. Below are some common issue areas with information that may be helpful to you.

The following information may not be the most recent. The information on this site is only for your education. It is not legal advice. If you use it, it is your responsibility to make sure that the information is complete, accurate, and applies to your situation. If you need legal advice, you should consult a lawyer.

If you need additional help, please feel free to call during our intake hours, Monday 1:00pm – 4:00pm (or Tuesday after a Monday holiday 1:00pm – 4:00pm) at:

For those who are not incarcerated in MA:

(617) 482-2773

Call collect for prisoners in MA county facilities:

(617) 482-4124

Speed-dial number authorized on MA state prisoner PIN cards:



When prison staff use excessive physical force against an incarcerated person and injures him or her. PLS has a rapid response protocol with reports of brutality. For more information please visit our brutality project page.

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Civil Commitment

A qualified person can request a court order requiring someone to be treated involuntarily for substance use disorder. In Massachusetts, due to a lack of treatment beds, people are often sent to prison without having committed any crimes.

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Conditions of Confinement

Correctional facilities should be maintaining conditions that are sanitary and safe. Some of the most common unsafe conditions PLS has encountered relate to heating concerns, lack of adequate lighting, and improper sanitation. 

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Disciplinary Hearings

Our staff is too small to permit us to offer representation at prison administrative hearings, including disciplinary, classification, and parole revocation hearings.  However, we are providing the following summary of your rights in order to help you prepare for your hearing. 

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Fees & Property

Property is frequently lost or destroyed by prison guards, either directly or because of failure to secure a cell properly. Incarcerated people may also be charged for medical co-payments, haircuts, prison accounts, DNA database charges, victim and witness assessment, and child support.

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Health Care

People with medical health concerns who believe they are not receiving appropriate or timely treatment, are experiencing problems with their medication (or lack thereof), or wish to receive a specific kind of treatment or medication they have been denied.

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ICE Detention

PLS aims to improve conditions faced by detained immigrants including discrimination, placement in solitary confinement, language access needs, medical and mental health care, food and sanitation, and access to programming and services.

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Medical Parole

Incarcerated people who are permanently physically or cognitively incapacitated or are terminally ill with less than 18 months to live can apply to be released on medical parole. Even those who have sentences with no parole eligibility, including natural lifers, can be eligible for medical parole.

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While you are pregnant your health needs extra attention to ensure that you and your baby are healthy and that you have as few complications as possible during your pregnancy. You should be able to ensure that your health and that of the baby are protected even while you are in jail or prison.

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Religious Issues

All people have a constitutional right to freedom of religious expression. See the Department of Correction’s policy on Religious Programs and Services, 103 CMR 471, here and read the DOC’s Religious Services Handbook here.

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Restrictive Housing/Solitary Confinement

People held in solitary confinement are locked in segregation for at least 23 hours per day in what is typically a 7×9 foot cell. Studies have shown that solitary confinement neither deters violent behavior nor reduces recidivism.

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Sexual Assault & PREA

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (“PREA”), P.L. 108-79, is a set of standards developed to prevent and respond to sexual assault in prisons. PREA standards cover sexual assaults between incarcerated persons as well as staff-on-prisoner abuse and can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) – 28 CFR, Part 115. PREA standards, apply to all prisons, jails, lockups, and detention facilities in the U.S., including the civilly committed portion of the Massachusetts Treatment Center (MTC).

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Shy Bladder

There are a number of physical and psychological conditions that may prevent someone from producing a urine sample within the two-hour period required by the DOC.

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Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder is a major cause of incarceration and afflicts a majority of those incarcerated. Nationally, approximately 80% of those incarcerated self-report drug addiction, Yet, nationally only 11% of those with substance abuse and addiction disorders receive treatment during their incarceration.

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If you want to request a transfer out of the Massachusetts DOC system, this memorandum describes the process you should follow. PLS does not ordinarily provide direct assistance on classification matters such as transfers to a county, out of state or federal facility.

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Visitations & Telephones

Visitation and telephone access are two of the primary ways that incarcerated persons keep in touch with family and loved ones. PLS has put together a brief guide to address some of the common issues that arise.

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The Massachusetts Constitution was amended in 2001 to prohibit all those who are incarcerated for a felony conviction from voting in any election. This amendment affects only people currently incarcerated on a felony conviction.

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