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Walsh supports ‘compassionate release’ of former speaker DiMasi

Former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi in 2007.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File

Mayor Martin J. Walsh supports the "compassionate release" from prison of his former House colleague, Salvatore DiMasi, who according to the former North End Democrat's wife, will soon undergo radiation treatments for prostate cancer.

Walsh and Deborah DiMasi were guests on WGBH's "Greater Boston" show Tuesday night, and were interviewed separately by host Jim Braude.

"I would support that," Walsh said in response to Braude's question about DiMasi's petition for compassionate release. Walsh continued, "Sal has been sick now with a couple of bouts of cancer and that's why the intent of this program was set up — for compassionate release of prisoners that need that ability."


Walsh, a former Dorchester state representative who served under DiMasi's leadership, said he urges the court to approve DiMasi's petition for early release.


Sentenced to federal prison in September 2011 for using his office to corruptly steer multi-million-dollar state contracts, DiMasi was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer shortly after his incarceration.

DiMasi's wife said she is waiting for a status update on the compassionate release petition, which was filed in July, and told Braude her husband was just moved to a medical facility where he received a bone scan and awaits further testing. She said DiMasi will have to undergo 42 radiation treatments.

Deborah DiMasi also expressed her discontent with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which she accuses of not providing her husband with timely care. She also suggested his lack of adequate treatment may be in retaliation for her speaking out about his condition.

"I think the way they've treated him and treated others is inhumane," she said.

Deborah DiMasi said she fears her husband might die before his scheduled release date — Nov. 17, 2018, if credited for "good time" served — and said greater attention needs to be put on prison system health care.


"I hate to say it, but my feeling is that if I can't help Sal, perhaps there are others I can help and that's in Massachusetts and it's also across the United States. We need to know what is happening inside these prisons and I will go as far as to say, often times they're being given death sentences. That's not the sentence they received," she said.

DiMasi, a former House speaker, was once one of the most powerful figures in state government, helping Governor Mitt Romney to pass a sweeping health reform law in 2006 and helping to defeat a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would have outlawed same-sex marriage.