Objective data can be a powerful tool for change
We applaud the Globe’s Aug. 22 editorial, “Lessons from ‘The taking of Cell 15’: Reform corrections,” and its call for the establishment of an independent oversight body with a credible system for investigating complaints. Objective data used in this way can be a powerful tool to inform and create change. Such a resource serves both the individuals incarcerated, the community, and public safety officials.
Corrections is a tough business. Public agencies are charged with the care and custody of people convicted of crimes and deprived of their liberties. For many incarcerated individuals, untreated substance use disorder and mental health concerns are underlying factors.
Most incarcerated people eventually will be released, and it is in everyone’s interest that the prison experience not only be safe but also prepare those incarcerated for their return to the community. This should include help in providing education, job training, and treatment to address mental health needs and substance use disorder.
Just as important, corrections agencies must adhere to the principles of procedural justice: People sent to prison must see that experience as being administered fairly, transparent in its actions, providing an opportunity for voice, and impartial in its decision-making.
That is not what happened in the case whose events were reported by the Globe Spotlight Team in “The taking of cell 15.” The Commonwealth needs an independent, credible oversight body.
Deborah M. O’Brien
President and CEO
John J. Larivee
Former president and CEO
Community Resources for Justice
Accountability of our county jails is long overdue
Thanks to the Globe editorial board for its strong call for accountability and oversight in the state prison system, since the cruelty of the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center clearly demonstrates the need. We of Bristol County for Correctional Justice, in Southeastern Massachusetts, would like to extend that call to the state’s county jails.
Sheriffs also lack accountability — on fiscal matters, use of force, deaths in their jails, standards of public health, and other issues. In a December 2020 report, the state attorney general found our county’s sheriff, Thomas Hodgson, to have violated the civil rights of detainees. A few years ago, the Globe’s Spotlight Team focused on his abuses as well.
Thankfully, in May the Biden administration heeded the calls of Bristol County residents and elected officials and terminated the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement contract at the detention center. Still, incarcerated people held in Bristol County continue to suffer inhumane conditions.
Strong oversight and accountability of the state’s county sheriff system is long overdue.
The writer is an organizer with the Coalition for Social Justice, a grass-roots organization.