Incarcerated Individuals and Corrections Staff
Many of us are concerned about the potential for an outbreak in our prisons and houses of correction. Given the inability to maintain physical distancing in these environments, the possibility of a significant spread is high which puts the health of corrections staff and inmates at risk. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), our highest state court, has issued an opinion on a case concerning this issue, the details of which are set forth below.
- The SJC held that inmates held “pre-trial” were entitled to a presumption of release unless they fell into certain categories designated by the court, such as perpetrators of violent crime.
- Individuals charged with low level, non-violent crimes are being released.
- The SJC also held that it lacked authority to order release hearings for those who were already convicted and sentenced, even for non-violent crimes.
- The court did note that the executive branch could decide to release certain individuals.
- This report from the SJC outlines weekly numbers of released inmates for the previous week.
As a result of the above mentioned opinion, I have been working with the ACLU and Prisoners Legal Services to persuade the Governor and his public safety staff to release those in state prison who meet certain criteria, including those whose sentence is set to conclude soon. For those who may want to better understand the issues you can read a letter drafted by the ACLU here.