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Prison reform advocates to sit in at Gov. Baker's office

Advocates say that high inmate and officer suicide rates shows a need for an investigation into the Department of Corrections.
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A group of prison reform advocates that includes formerly incarcerated citizens, family members of those incarcerated and clergy are planning a sit-in outside Gov. Charlie Baker’s office Friday afternoon to spur an investigation into the Department of Corrections.

The advocates, a collective called The Massachusetts 6+, want an investigation into the department’s alleged abuses in an attempt to alleviate the high number of suicides within Massachusetts prisons, by both inmates and correctional officers, said Lynn Currier of the group.

“We know why people are committing suicide,” she said. “There are a  lot of conditions in the DOC that are substandard and go against their own policies.”

An investigation would also quell the number of people returning to prisons, the group says, because current conditions inside facilities causes many to “[come] back into communities as violent people who were not violent before imprisoned,” the group said in a release.

The problem, the group says, comes down to a lack “a lack of oversight or accountability” within the DOC that perpetuates a "dysfunctional" situation and results most prominently in inmates and officers taking their own lives.

In April, following the suicide death of Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez, Attorney General Maura Healey called for a probe into the fact that Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of inmate suicides.

The suicide rate among correctional officers here is about six times the rate of suicides among Massachusetts residents, according to MassLive.

The group’s demands include an investigation into the DOC, the forming of a citizen’s oversight committee and releasing those who may be falsely incarcerated because of a drug lab scandal.

“We want to work toward working with the governor and the state for reform that will be win-win for the DOC as well as inmates and their families,” Currier said. “We we’re never just anti-DOC, we want to make this better for everybody.”

Currier said that so far, Baker has “ignored” the group and their requests to meet. They plan to sit in Baker’s office today until they have a meeting scheduled.

Billy Pitman, Baker’s press secretary, said in a statement that members of the Baker administration, including the DOC, have meet and had conversations with these advocates over their concerns.

The administration also filed bipartisan reform legislation in April that will reduce the number of people who will serve time because they can’t pay a fine, Pitman noted. 

 

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