Setting the record straight
The Disability Law Center was disappointed to read in the editorial, “Put the brakes on prison moratorium” (Opinion, July 21), that the Globe editorial board used our demands for the Commonwealth to address the immediate health and safety risks at Bridgewater State Hospital and to construct a new, long overdue facility to be run by the Department of Mental Health, to counter efforts to put a halt to building new correctional facilities and increasing prison bed space. This entirely misconstrues DLC’s recommendations.
DLC’s demand to replace Bridgewater — a prison masquerading as a hospital — with a DMH hospital goes hand in hand with the goals of the prison moratorium. We seek to stop funneling money into prisons and fund services in the community to provide support and intervention to individuals with disabilities that may divert them from becoming mired in the criminal justice system, and also to provide alternatives to incarceration and civil commitment in correctional facilities. Moreover, necessary mold and asbestos remediation within an existing prison would not run afoul of the moratorium.
To set the record straight, DLC both supports the prison moratorium and termination of the Department of Correction’s involvement in the care and treatment of persons at Bridgewater State Hospital.
Barbara A. L’Italien
Disability Law Center
It’s important to ask why some people commit crimes
I was incredibly disappointed to read your editorial regarding the prison moratorium, which I found to be misinformed.
Advocates for the prison moratorium (in its original language, not the Massachusetts Senate’s new language with massive loopholes) have never tried to stop important renovations that would address the egregious current state of prisons, which are an inhumane environment.
And, yes, as the piece states, people will commit crimes, but abolitionists think an important question to ask is why. Why does someone commit a crime? Those who do not commit crimes are not saints as this piece glibly states, they are people with resources and options. And what kind of resources and options could someone have if we took the $50 million dollars we the taxpayers are spending on an entirely new prison and spent it on creating those resources and options.
Prisons do not stop crime, they do not heal trauma. Prisons create new and additional trauma, they isolate people, they abuse people. There is no problem that abuse can fix. And a new prison will not help our community, resources and options will.
There exist other ways to rehabilitate communities
I was disappointed to read the Editorial Board’s piece against the prison and jail construction moratorium. The Editorial Board neglects to note that the final language in the moratorium bill does not prevent structural improvements and renovations from being made to existing prisons. Additionally, the Board erroneously writes that “advocates for prison reform…now stand in the way of much needed improvements with a single-mindedness that ignores the basic needs of those currently incarcerated.” In fact, the advocates for the moratorium have been incarcerated women at MCI-Framingham themselves, along with individuals in the greater Boston community with family members behind bars. There is a direct historical line between chattel slavery and the penal system in the United States; see, for example, the work of Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, and Saidiya Hartman. Following the lead of incarcerated people themselves, I stand with those calling for community-led solutions and alternatives. From policies like the Primary Caretakers Act to strategies like clemency and commutation, there are indeed other ways to rehabilitate and heal communities; new prisons are not the solution.
Why invest in the incarceration of future generations of women and girls?
I support the work of Families for Justice as Healing, which has been pushing to pass a five-year jail and prison construction moratorium. Their very attainable goal of ending the incarceration of women and girls in Massachusetts is possible if we follow the lead of communities most impacted by incarceration. These communities know what they need to thrive, and it is not another prison.
Prisons are not a place where people can heal and rebuild their lives. There are strategies, like clemency and commutation, that can be used to release women from prison right now, and there are underutilized policies, like the Primary Caretakers Act, that allow parents to serve community-based sentences rather than being incarcerated and separated from their children. An investment in a new women’s prison is an investment in incarcerating future generations of women and girls.
I want to see the Legislature pass a meaningful Jail and Prison Construction Moratorium that will truly create a five-year pause on jail and prison construction and expansion — including the new women’s prison. In the next five years, we can further reduce the number of people incarcerated and implement alternatives, while resourcing and reimagining communities, not prisons. We should focus our spending on community-led alternatives that bring healing rather than perpetuate a system of harm.
Mass incarceration status quo should be the status no
Your recent editorial position opposing the Prison Construction Moratorium bill represents the mass incarceration status quo, not the humane and informed position of the people, some former inmates, who wrote the substance of the bill. Massachusetts is the best of the worst: we incarcerate a smaller percentage of our citizens than most other states, but the US record is the worst in the world. With this bill, we can become an inspiring leader in decarceration nationwide.