Harsh prison rules punish the innocent


December 14, 2019
The Boston Globe
Yvonne Abraham

Before, anyone could visit an inmate, as long as they passed an onsite background check. Now, only 8 or 10 designated family members and others are allowed to visit, after submitting to a pre-approval process so onerous it dissuades some from even trying. Approved designees may visit only one inmate in the system unless they receive special permission.

The new rules were meant to combat contraband in prisons, according to a Department of Correction spokesman, but did not provide data showing whether drug-smuggling is down. (There have been several cases of guards smuggling in drugs since then.)

Here’s what is down: visits across the system, by a quarter, in the first year, with one prison seeing a drop of 36 percent.

“They try to make it as awful as possible so that people don’t want to visit,” said Elizabeth Matos, head of Prisoners’ Legal Services, which has sued to overturn the new rules.

Restricting visits isn’t just inhumane, however: It compromises public safety. Studies show that inmates who maintain contact with family and friends behave better in prison, and are less likely to reoffend on the outside.

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