How extraordinary that the Massachusetts Department of Correction is considering limiting the number of visitors inmates can have, to five in maximum-security prisons, and eight in medium security (“Mass. prisons announce limit on inmate visitors,” Metro, Feb 25).
All visitors — lawyers, educators, and relatives — are currently subject to search each and every time they enter the prison. The search is the same whether you have five or 50 visitors on your list, which belies the argument that such a restriction would reduce drug traffic.
Imagine deciding which five family members or friends to put on your list of wanted visitors. Even worse, imagine telling those whom you are leaving off the list. Who is more important — a partner, parents, children, or friends?
Surely we want as much community support as possible for those incarcerated in order to ensure a successful transition back into society and to combat recidivism.
We hope that Commissioner of Correction Thomas A. Turco III decides against such restrictions before they are implemented in March.
I am distressed to read of the new Department of Correction policy that will cap the number of visitors for prisoners in Massachusetts. This is an unnecessarily cruel measure for prisoners and their families by an agency that apparently is unconcerned with helping prisoners transition back to society.
The reasoning behind this policy is unclear. They already do background checks on visitors, and if the Department of Correction truly cared about drug abuse in prison, it would actually provide effective, evidence-based drug treatment. It seems more likely that the department is trying to create social death for prisoners, cutting them off from the outside world and isolating them from life-giving community support that reinforces their humanity while reducing recidivism.
If this policy is allowed to go into effect, we will have one of the most restrictive prison visitation policies in the country. Governor Baker and the Legislature have claimed to be working toward meaningful criminal justice reform in Massachusetts. Permitting the Department of Correction to severely restrict the visitation rights of incarcerated people is contrary to rehabilitation and reentry goals, and is moving in the wrong direction.
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