Prisoners testify about COVID-19 dangers


By Sarah Betancourt
April 27, 2020
Commonwealth Magazine

AS THE BAKER ADMINISTRATION begins ramping up COVID-19 testing at state prisons, prisoners from three facilities testified before a Superior Court judge about conditions at their institutions.

The lawsuit, which is likely to end up before the Supreme Judicial Court for final action, is seeking the release of sentenced prisoners to reduce crowding at the facilities and the potential for COVID-19 spread. An earlier decision by the SJC ordered the release of prisoners awaiting trials.

Michele Tourigny, a prisoner at MCI-Framingham, where 68 of the 189 prisoners have tested positive for coronavirus, testified via phone that she joined the lawsuit filed by Prisoners’ Legal Services because she applied for medical parole on March 31 and has heard nothing back. She has been incarcerated 23 years.

Tourigny has tested negative for COVID-19, but she’s worried she will contract the virus. She was hospitalized last year for an infected leg and surgery that removed part of her lung following a bout of pneumonia. She said she has bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder, as well as an ongoing heart condition and thyroid issues. She is the only occupant of her cell because she has difficulty walking and uses a wheelchair.

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