To learn that MCI-Norfolk’s water is sediment-filled, foul-tasting, and unsafe was concerning. To discover that clean water has not subsequently been provided to all inmates was maddening. To read that Wayland Coleman, a prison inmate, was placed in solitary confinement for acquiring and distributing bottled water was both shocking and infuriating (“Norfolk inmate starts hunger strike over water,” Metro, March 25).
One would think that an extreme form of punishment such as solitary confinement would be reserved for the most egregious offenses, such as assault or attempting to escape. The use of this practice over the acquisition and distribution of clean water — one of our most basic human needs — is way out of line. Perhaps what really elicited Coleman’s time in solitary — in this instance and after mailing a water report to the Globe in February 2017 — was embarrassing prison authorities.
The Department of Correction’s contention that in prison things “of value” could potentially be traded for drugs, sex, and contraband is ludicrous simply because clean water should not, in fact, be “of value.” Only scarcity can create a black market, and there is absolutely no way to justify a scarcity of clean water.
A new water system is due for implementation this spring, but the scrutiny cannot end with this. The state still needs to take a very close look into the practices and personnel at MCI-Norfolk.