DeeperThanWater is a coalition of organizations dedicated to exposing the rampant human rights abuses that prisoners in the United States are subjected to, using the lens of water justice to highlight the toxicity of the carceral state.
Wellpath at MCI-Norfolk is severely under-staffed— the shortage of nurses means that people who need chronic care are being left unseen inside. One insider suffering from glaucoma is now sending his second request for care, and it’s been months since he’s been examined for it.
But why is that?
Prison Legal News revealed Wellpath’s cost-saving policies mean that incarcerated people are only seen in cases of “life or limb threatening illness or injury.” But what happens to the money saved?
“If they provide NO services, they get to keep all that money,” noted Yolanda Huang, a civil rights attorney who is also a member of the NLG.
But what happens to incarcerated people?
Read their stories below:
content warning: state violence, miscarriage, assault, state murder
Lauren Kent: 4 months pregnant, ignored for cramps and vaginal bleeding and was instead told her “issue is more behavioral than medical.” Laura later gavebirth to a stillborn baby over the toilet in a maximum security cell. In an act of astonishing cruelty, Laura’s request to hold her dead baby was denied.
Ziggy Lemanski: filed several sick slips for flu-like symptoms, and had a weakened immune system due to HIV and Hepatitis C, wrote that he struggled to get out of bed and was coughing up blood. By the time he received hospital treatment, “his lungs were so congested they wouldn’t even show up on an x-ray.”He died at 44 of pneumonia.
Michael Ramey: 36, was diagnosed with atypical migraines and said he needed to see a neurologist within a week. The appointment was never set & he fell many times over the course of 10 days. He was written off by clinicians as “med-seeking.” A month later a nurse found him in his cell unable to walk, asking for help. He was sent to a hospital and died a week laterfrom cryptococcal meningitis.
Andrew Leighton: 57, experienced “excruciating pain in his teeth, nose, and neck” and was prescribed penicillin by a dentist. Later a nurse found “a golf-ball-size mass in his throat” and told him to “apply ice to his neck and sleep in a slightly elevated position.” He was found unresponsive in his cell the next day.
Paul Bulthouse: 39, suffered 15 seizures due to withdrawal from prescription drugs that caused “severe and fatal withdrawal symptoms” which were ignored before he died. The seizures were recorded on video as guards failed to make their regular welfare checks
Richard Willingham: had a history of pulmonary embolisms. While in COVID quarantine, he had chest pains and difficulty breathing, and was given a shot of blood thinners, then sent back to his cell. He submitted a sick call request, but 25hrs later he hadn’t received help. He later had to be rushed to the hospital where he died.
Marc Moreno: 18 arrested during a mental health crisis. A Wellpath clinician observed “evidence of mania & psychosis” but gave no treatment or referrals. Instead, he languished in his cell and was observed rolling around in feces. He lost 38lbs in the 8 days before he was found dead .
Many families who have lost loved ones due to Wellpath’s negligence are suing, but that isn’t an option for many incarcerated people. It is essential that their stories are heard.
Incarcerated people at MCI Shirley face an unsanitary outbreak of mice and pest contamination of food and meal trays. Wayland Coleman and others avoid eating this unsanitary food at great personal expense, and Wayland consistently helps others access clean food through canteen.
We are supporting Wayland and his brother Adrian in raising $7000 to cover his food costs for a year, so he can eat enough to stay healthy without risking contaminated food. tinyurl.com/CareForWayland
hear from those incarcerated at Shirley about what conditions are like inside the faclity.
My name is Wayland X Coleman. I’m currently incarcerated here at MCI Shirley.
Today what I want to do is give a brief report on the situation with the mice here at MCI Shirley. There are many environmental health issues here, but one of the issues that we have a lot of problems with is the infestation of mice at this prison.
The mice in this prison are everywhere. They’re in the units. They come into our cells. And one of the worst environments that is contaminated with the mice is the chow hall, or the kitchen. The kitchen, where they prep our food, our trays are supposed to be cleaned, and all of those things, the mice have pretty much taken over the kitchen. And so, the food trays that we’re being served on all have been covered in mice feces before they prepare our food on them. And what they do is you know they’ll wash and rinse the trays off, and then serve our food. So that’s pretty disgusting.
One of the other issues that’s happening with our food, in the morning, every morning they send up a crate of milks. Our milks, even though they try to rinse the milks off, there is still mice feces attached to the milks when we receive them in the morning.
And so, because there’s such a problem with the mice in this prison, many of us, we do things like block our doors, the bottom of the doors, so that the mice won’t get into the cell. We also tape a piece to the wall on the side of the door so that they won’t come in through the side.
About a month ago, I was locked in my cell for a couple of hours out of retaliation from bringing this issue up to the superintendent. What the superintendent was doing when he did his round in the unit, he attempted to remove the piece of paper that I had to block the mice from coming into the cell. So what I did was I explained to them that that particular piece of paper, which was just a flattened out toilet paper roll, that was all it was, and it was just taped to the wall to the bottom of the door, and it didn’t interfere with the door or anything. So what I did was I explained that that was there in order to keep the mice from coming into the cell.
And so, his position on that was, well, I’m taking care of the mouse problem, and, you know, the blocking of the door is not supposed to be there, the little piece of paper on the door is not supposed to be there. So I’m saying, well, “that’s keeping the mice out, you know, because you guys got a mouse problem and you know, this is keeping the mice out.” He didn’t care about any logic, any reasoning, or anything. His superiority complex just simply made them simply repeat “it doesn’t belong there,” right. And so what I asked him was, “okay so are you telling me, I have to let mice come in and out of my cell?” And, you know, to a question like that they usually look at it like you know we’re being stubborn and things like that but it’s a reasonable question, right? “Are you telling me that I have to let the mice come into my cell? Is that what you’re telling me?” So he storms off and tells me to take care of it, so I told him well you take care of your mouse problem, right?
Sergeant Lewis became upset with the way, I guess, you know, I spoke to his boss. And so he starts telling me, you know, “why you got to run your mouth all the time.” And so I told him listen you guys have a mouse problem, right, and I don’t want the mice in my cell, right, and so I’m blocking the door to keep the mice out of my cell. It’s not obstructing the doors, it’s not doing anything that stops the door from locking or any of that. It doesn’t interfere with your security. I’m just trying to keep the mice out of my stuff. So his response to that was, “well, the superintendent says he’s taking care of it. And he’s going to take care of it.” So when I asked them, “Okay, so, are you going to keep the mice from coming in here tonight, right? Because I hear him say he’s taking care of it, but are the mice not going to come in here tonight?” And so he became upset, and I told him, you know, “You guys get to go home at the end of the day and you don’t have to stay here. We have to live here and you guys don’t have to deal with the shit we got to deal with in here.” And so when I said that to him, he slammed my door closed and ordered the unit officers to leave me locked in until shift change.
So that’s a major issue for us, because at the end of the day where we’re just simply trying to do things that’s humane for us, you know. We don’t want mice in our food. We don’t want them shitting all over our cells. You know, we’re trying to do things that’s clean for us and that’s humane for us, and the administrative attitude towards that is always, “I said it, and therefore you have to do it. If I say move it, you move it.” Not caring that we’re just trying to take a necessary measure, you know, to keep our cell space free of mice. That’s irrelevant to them. The administrative attitude is oppressive. If you don’t do what we say to do, regardless of, you know, us understanding you’re trying to, you know, keep your environment clean and healthy. We said don’t keep it clean and healthy and that way, you’re not supposed to. And so, when you refuse to do that, then, the next step is to repress you, and this was, you know, them locking me in for a couple of hours for addressing a mouse problem.
And so I decided to get involved with their mice problems, since they don’t want to take care of it and they don’t want us to take these efforts to keep them out of our living spaces, then maybe we should hold them accountable for having this problem in the first place. And so here I’m just reporting to you that there is a significant problem with mice infestations in this prison, and they are everywhere.
I don’t eat the food here, because I don’t want to eat mouse droppings. Unfortunately, I do drink the milk, because it’s my only source of vitamin D. I am vitamin D deficient medically, and that’s one of my only avenues to get vitamin D. And so I’ll drink the milk but what I do is I wash him. I wash him, throw him in my sink, I wash them with soap and water. And then to drink it, I pour it in a cup. I don’t drink out of the carton. So that’s what’s going on.
I did meet a while ago with House Representative Liz Miranda. And after that meeting, they brought trays, because we had missed chow for the meeting, so they brought trays for us. And everybody was taking their trays and I didn’t take mine. And so she asked me, “how come you’re not taking your food?” I explained to her that I don’t eat that food, that I wouldn’t touch that food, because it’s contaminated. And so she asked me to explain. So I told her well, you know, the mice run the kitchen in this prison, and they are in everything. They’re in our meat, they’re in our food, they’re on our trays, they’re in our milk. Everything they have in that kitchen, the mice are in. And so, I told her, you know, so I’m not going to take these trays because I don’t trust that these trays are healthy. So I asked her, you know, when you leave, take a tour of the kitchen. Take a tour of the kitchen. And, you know, once you see what’s going on in that kitchen, then you know you’ll have your answers to why I won’t take that tray. And so she said she would. I don’t know if she did. But I haven’t heard anything else from that. But that is, you know, a pretty significant thing that’s going on that I think people need to pay attention to.
What I’m going to do is, we do have a few of my peers in here who work in the kitchen. I can’t tell their stories. Some of them are willing to step up and tell their stories. Now, there is always a fear of retaliation, when people do tell their stories. And so these kitchen workers who will tell you about what’s going on in the kitchen and the infestation and how nasty it is, they can tell you better than I can. And they will be telling you, but they are at risk of losing their jobs once they tell you their stories. That’s one of our concerns in here. Sometimes, the prison job is all the person has even though they’re getting paid pennies. It’s still all they have, and the fact that these few men are willing to step up and speak at the risk of losing the little bit of livelihood they got speaks volumes and speaks to the importance of this issue.
Shortly after, maybe in a few days or so, we will start hearing from those individuals who are specifically and directly working under those conditions. So for now, I want to thank you for your time. I hope you guys do take this mice infestation at MCI Shirley seriously, because it’s disgusting.
Almost every night, you know, sometimes the mice, they still get through your blockade. And you know, I’ve been chasing them out of the cells. Late night, you know, almost every night I gotta chase one out of there, and it’s pretty disgusting.
So please hear us. Hear our voices and just know that this is a concern, it’s an environmental health issue. Under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution exposure to vermin and rodents and things like that are an Eighth Amendment violation, so recognize that exposure to these mice could be a violation.
So with that said, I’m going to thank you for now, for your time, and again, just ask you to hear us, and be willing to help us and support us in getting this issue eradicated from the prisons, or to get this prison closed while there is an infestation here, because we shouldn’t be living under these pretty disgusting conditions. So thank you for your time. In the struggle, I am Wayland X. Coleman.
Good morning Deeper Than Water. I am from the Boston area, I’ve been incarcerated here at MCI-Shirley for about the last four months. I just arrived not too soon ago, and now I’ve been employed in the kitchen. As I’ve been in the kitchen, I’ve seen numerous mice infestations. Being that I was a server on the line, when the food comes to us, I would see certain trays, because I was the one that sometimes I would put the trays on the cover, covers on the trays, and also sometimes I would serve the food. So when I would see these things I would stop immediately, and bring it to the director’s attention. He would then order me to go see the lieutenant, to no avail did I get any help or explanation of any sort. So now what he did tell me was, you know, if you see it, just throw it away. I said, you might as well throw all of them away because they’re all contaminated.
Also, my job, the title of my job was to come in at five o’clock in the morning and clean out the dish tray, but the dish tray, the dish washing machine, so to say, was so packed with food, because I’ve dealt with, I deal with integrity, so I would go in there with my heart and clean this thing out, man, but I can’t speak for other people. But I was bringing this to the administration’s attention that, you know, there’s so much food in this thing that I’m back cleaning out that shouldn’t be there, they didn’t care, to no avail again.
So what I did was, you know, I would do my job regardless of whom or what, because I like to deal with integrity and I just didn’t think about myself, I’ve thought about the people as well, because we eat off these things. And then the mice poop that was on these trays, man, was just terrible. It’s like nobody cares in the kitchen. Neither inmate nor staff. There’s only a chosen few that do care, you can’t speak for everybody and you can’t do for everybody all they can do for you, oneself, man. One man can’t carry that whole burden. You can try but it’s not going to get accomplished because there’s always another shift. And the rat infestation within the unit where, you know, rats and mice are coming into our cells, man, eating up our food, you know destroying our food that we pay for and we’re not getting compensated for. They come around, ask us, you know, you give your name and they said we’re working on it. Nothing happens.
My problem was the food in the kitchen. I just got fired for speaking my mind, telling the administration, man you could take this, man you could take my uniform, you’re worried about a uniform, but you’re not worrying about the mice infestation that’s running around here rampant. So with that being said, I was disgusted and I got tired, and it was just a matter of time before they fired me anyways, because I was the one that would speak up.
Regardless of whom or what, I’m standing on my square and saying whatever I got to say, man, in reference to us as a unified body, as a whole. So that being said, man, I greatly appreciate Deeper Than Water’s time and appreciation for allowing me to have this time to bring forth this said matter. I appreciate everybody, man, that’s involved with this, man, and I look forward to solving this issue that we have up here with this mice infestation in this kitchen that needs to be shut down. I don’t see how they’re able to pass these so-called Board of Health when they come through to give an evaluation on the kitchen itself. It has to be an inside job of people knowing somebody knowing somebody, to say, okay, put a checkmark there when there’s a major problem. You’re hearing it from somebody that just recently got fired from the kitchen.
Thank you again for your time and patience. With that being said, man, we’re waiting for, to hear back from Deeper Than Water, thank you.
This is.. calling back on the same situation. But then we also have these problems in every unit, where they’re coming in the cells and we’ve got our canteen foods and they’re eating up our canteen foods or going through it, and somehow they get in lockers. And then they’re running around the unit in the daytime and nighttime so everybody’s trying to block their door to keep the mice out of their cells. But somehow they still get through them and so a lot of people have to throw out their canteen food because it’s not edible no more once the mice get into it and start biting all over it.
This has been addressed. The superintendent tells us they are working on the problem. Since I’ve been here in 2019, no problem has been addressed. This is still going on in the units, too. So every unit in Shirley medium has this problem. Upstairs and downstairs. It’s not just a full-on downstairs problem, this is upstairs. They are running rampant at nighttime, so when the third shift come in, and during the daytime they’re running around. So then that’s the other thing. Also, due to this COVID issue, they’re conserving, just today was the first day they started doing styrofoam trays. Knowing that COVID’s got a few blocks locked down, because of COVID, but they’re still serving food in hard trays that do not get cleaned properly. So if you’re not going to bleach the trays that means that COVID is going to still exist so they’re like passing it around. So the only way we’re getting COVID is through COs and nurses and people that come to the CRA so that’s the other issue that needs to be addressed because they’re not getting tested every time they come to work. So they’re bringing it in. And they’re shutting the prison down and because they’re the ones bringing it in. We don’t get sick unless they bring it in. There’s no contact visits so they’re the ones bringing it in. And some people got weak immune systems so when they die they can say, oh, due to COVID. No, they brought it in. But you know, the last thing that was supposed to be brought up, is still right here right now though.
As part of our ongoing efforts to document the harms of medical care in Massachusetts jails and prisons, we’re collecting stories from people who have survived Wellpath’s care.
One of our members interviewed Shorty Mac, who is incarcerated at MCI-Norfolk, about his experiences with Wellpath. Below is a transcript of this interview. Shorty is 70 years old and has suffered unnecessarily because of Wellpath’s negligence.
Shorty: “I’ve been in pain for more than two years. I’ve been diagnosed with a kidney stone and it was just two weeks ago that I was scheduled to see a urologist.
“At first, the Wellpath provider gave me Naproxen for the pain and this didn’t help at all. Then they gave me Neurontin. This helped, but the side effects have been that I’m tired all of the time and I’m shaking a great deal.
“I also have a heart condition, cardiomyopathy, and hypertension. Sometimes I have shortness of breath due to this condition. But it’s the buildup of fluid in my legs and feet that’s the worse. Sometimes they are swollen so bad and the pain is so bad I can’t even walk.
“These Wellpath providers changed my heart medication without talking to my cardiologist. To this day, I still don’t know what I was given. An officer had to tell the nurse on call that I didn’t look so good, and I was taken to an outside hospital. On top of all of this, I contracted Covid and had to be put on oxygen.
“Even though I had plenty of people listed on my emergency contact list, Wellpath did not contact my family or my sister. One of my friends on the inside had to contact my people to tell them what was happening.
“If it were not for my sister and my lawyer advocating for my treatment, I wouldn’t be alive today. Wellpath doesn’t care about me.”
Interviewer: “What makes you think that the care Wellpath provides is so bad?”
Shorty: “Come on man! I was dying, I had Covid and they took me to Milford Hospital in Milford, MA. Those people were the kindest, most professional doctors and nurses I had ever met. They talked to me about my treatment and what they were going to do. The difference between the medical care I received there and what I’ve received from Wellpath was as clear as night and day. It felt like the medical people at Milford cared about me.”
Interviewer: “What would you like to see done as far as solutions concerning your healthcare?”
Shorty: “Three major changes need to be made.
“First, Wellpath should not be allowed to change medication without consulting your primary care doctor. This procedure is dangerous.
“Second, there’s no continuity to one’s treatment. In most cases, we are required to see a nurse practitioner at Wellpath before seeing a doctor. If the nurse practitioner leaves Wellpath, there is no follow up to what they recommended. The turnover rate for providers is frequent- it seems like every three to five months there’s a new nurse practitioner!
“Third, it is so difficult to get our prescriptions refilled. I need certain medications for my hypertension and heart condition, and if I don’t have these prescription filled on time, I’m in trouble. I can’t count on Wellpath to even provide this basic service.
“Look, the medical care is very, very poor. The only way to change it completely is to get rid of Wellpath. The don’t care about us. Their bottom line is to profit off of us – not to care about us.”
CALL TO ACTION: Join us in writing letters of support for one of our friends and incarcerated organizers, Sean “Truth” Evelyn, for his upcoming parole hearing. Letters of support from the community are important for letting the parole board know that Truth has support outside the walls. Please share this post and comment if you can write a letter!
Below, you can find some facts about himself that Truth has shared with us. You can write whatever you choose, but here are some optional prompts to include in your letter:
How do you know Sean?
If any, what impact has Sean had in your life?
How has Sean changed over the course of his incarceration?
What do you think Sean could offer to the community?
Why do you think Sean should be paroled?
How could you support Sean once released?
By the first week of November, please send your letters to:
Sean Evelyn, W94765 MCI-Norfolk 2 Clark Street, PO Box 43 Norfolk, MA 02056
• Over the course of my incarceration, I’ve maintained consistent employment, and received only three nonviolent, non-drug related disciplinary infractions (with the exception of one fight in the county jail).
• I’ve earned 20+ certificates of completion in programming addressing: anger, violence, trauma, criminal addictive thinking, and emotional awareness. Of all these programs, my participation in the Restorative Justice retreats and subsequent circles from 2016–2019 were by far the most transformative for me. My experiences in those spaces played a pivotal role in my own healing, as well as helping me develop a sense of accountability for my actions and the adverse effect that they’ve had on the community. Through R.J., I was given various opportunities to engage with survivors, district attorneys, and other law enforcement. I’ve also contributed to several R.J. 101 groups with Harvard University, and Brandies University. Those experience had a profound impact on me and my understanding of the responsibility that I have to atone for the harms I’ve cause — both as a survivor of, and responsible party for community violence.
• I spent a good portion of my time in mentor positions in the Second Thoughts at risk youth program from 2012- 2013, and as Project Coordinator on the Young Men’s Committee (YMC) board from 2016–2020. My responsibility as Project Coordinator was to develop and oversee the facilitation of all program curricula, workshops, events, and proposals submitted on behalf of the Committee.
• I’ve engaged in regular civic discourse regarding legislative initiatives and other planning with state officials and community stake holders while serving on the African American Coalition Committee (A.A.C.C.) board of directors from 2017 to present.
• In 2020, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. That same year, I coauthored a study that examined links between exposure to, and perpetration of inner-city violence amongst violent offenders at MCI Norfolk.
• Over the years I’ve developed a passion and marketable talent in the realm of spoken word poetry. Since 2012, I’ve received several awards for my performances in the Norfolk Poetry Group, Young Men’s Committee poetry slams, A.A.C.C. talent competitions, Toastmasters creative expression completions, and have been featured regularly as the entertainment for a wide range of other committee events.
• I’ve done my best to be intentional about using these many years of incarceration as a transformative period in my life. If I am granted parole, I will continue to use the skills, talents, and insights that I’ve developed over the years to honor those I’ve harmed and to contribute to society in a meaningful way. I plan on requesting to be paroled to the THRIVE CoSA Communities in Lowell, and to later transition to the greater Boston area.
On December 9, 2020, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker announced that prisoners were to be included in Phase I of the state’s vaccine rollout plan.
As many of you know, we teamed up with Families for Justice as Healing, the National Council for Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, and Black & Pink MA to collect questions from around the country about the new COVID-19 vaccines, including launching a survey to collect questions.
On January 9th, we held a community Town Hall forum on Zoom with nearly 100 community members to hear many of these questions answered by trusted doctors and experts in the field, as well as collect further questions and concerns from free-world family.
As a result, all of these questions were aggregated and put into an FAQ, authored with love by a dozen epidemiologists and physicians, which we will be sending back inside.
We are currently translating the document into multiple languages, which will be uploaded here.
URGENT! If we push the DOC to act NOW we can prevent another COVID19 outbreak at MCI Shirley! Two incarcerated people reported symptoms to the block nurse on Thursday and were ignored. Our two comrades are self-quarantining in their cell for fear of infecting others.
The system-wide testing planned for Thursday, 11/19 is BEYOND the incubation period for COVID19. The DOC must act NOW!
Hi, I’m a concerned [friend/doctor/community member] calling about an emergency. I received a report that two people in Unit F2 displaying COVID19 symptoms requested medical attention and were denied by the block nurse on Thursday. I am very concerned about their health and safety, as I know that prison guards have tested positive at MCI Shirley. Will you ensure
Any and all incarcerated people who report symptoms will receive proper medical attention immediately?
And that these two incarcerated people are tested, provided a daily supply of fresh surgical masks, and treated immediately?
allow them to quarantine without punishment?
if they test positive, that you will conduct contact tracing and test other people who they were in contact with to prevent an outbreak?
Did you call? Please give us a quick report back to help inform next steps!
Thanks to everyone who called for our family at MCI Norfolk!
We have just received confirmation that 2 prisoners
have been denied medical care by a nurse at MCI Shirley.
Both are showing COVID-19 symptoms, and we need your help again.
We’ve just received word that someone at MCI Norfolk is in desperate need of medical attention. The very person sounding this alarm tested positive for COVID19 this morning. Things are deteriorating fast at MCI Norfolk and we need you to act now!
Please call MCI Norfolk at (508) 660-5900.
Hello, I am a [friend/doctor/concerned citizen] calling about an emergency we have been informed is happening inside the prison. We heard that someone who is in the quarantine unit is throwing up violently and is not receiving medical attention. Can you confirm that you provide the medical treatment this person needs, including by taking him to a hospital if necessary?
As we prepare to head into the winter, with no sign of the COVID19 pandemic abating, cracks in the DOC’s public relations facade are becoming wider and more apparent as even their “infection control” strategies lay bare just how little they understand about controlling a pandemic. Outbreak after outbreak within the Massachusetts DOC has shown that what prisoners and health experts have been saying all along: there’s no such thing as a “safe” prison.
“For those of us that have underlying issues, like myself with asthma, its a big risk. And now the food here has no nutritional value to help build a strong immune system. There’s no prevention. It concerns me heavily and I don’t see the administration having proper PPE. The majority are wearing thin masks or nothing. And they aren’t required to be tested, like the incarcerated population is. My life is on the line”
Since that message, MCI-Norfolk has seen 54 prisoners taken out of their cells and “cohorted” with other exposed prisoners. This isn’t how medical isolation works; when they did this at MCI Framingham the spread of infections spiked. Placing those who may have been exposed with those whose exposure is nearly certain increases the likelihood that all involved will be exposed to the virus. Quarantine efforts like this in the past, which treated all exposed parties as already-infected have lead to mass infections.
Perhaps even more astonishingly than their failed quarantine protocol is the fact that prisoners are being “isolated” in a unit that was closed due to black mold, an environmental pathogen that leads to, of all things, respiratory distress.
Recently, despite clear evidence that the most effective mask strategy is the regular distribution of fresh disposable surgical masks, the DOC astonishingly ordered incarcerated people to start producing cloth masks for their own use. Subsequently, in a combination of brutal austerity and deliberate indifference, the DOC has discontinued the distribution of surgical masks in MA DOC facilities. This comes despite a study from the CDC’s infectious disease journal showing that: “During a pandemic, cloth masks may be the only option available; however, they should be used as a last resort when medical masks and respirators are not available” [ pdf ] About this, another of our comrades inside had this to say:
“We are now required to wear cloth masks manufactured by incarcerated people. Its the same cloth that’s used to make our uniforms. I am more comfortable wearing the surgical masks that most people wear outside the prison. But now, the surgical masks are considered contraband.”
Our sources also highlight the importance of noting that surgical mask distribution ceased two weeks ago, coinciding with the rapid spike in infections following the average incubation period. As the population of Norfolk remains largely static, and following on the revelation that a phlebotomist brought the infection into MCI Shirley, it is widely believed that the MCI Norfolk outbreak was caused by a guard who has now been identified.
This outbreak also leads to important questions about the DOC’s adherence to the decision made in SJC 12926 (and general honesty with the public), which required prompt reporting of infections. The ACLU’s Data for Justice COVID19 tracker shows that the DOC has been slow to share data with the outside world as the plotted numbers lag far behind real-world reports.
At the end of the day, decarceration is, and remains, the only answer. This newest outbreak comes on the heels of a historic decision by the American Public Health Association to ratify a statement endorsing abolition as a necessary public health strategy to address the crisis that is incarceration in the United States. This decision comes after months of COVID19 outbreaks across the country that have shown that which epidemiologists always knew: the only way to prevent the widespread loss of life is, and always has been, to send people home to the communities that love them.
HUGE: Just now, the American Public Health Association passed a statement naming carceral systems as a public health issue & recommending moving towards abolition & building just and equitable systems instead of carceral ones. Read the statement here:https://t.co/qVsWykxySc
Last week, officials from MCI Shirley took everything Wayland “X” Coleman owns in retaliation for his ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of his fellow prisoners.
Anyone who has followed Deeper Than Water for any period of time knows that Wayland is constantly sticking his neck out for people inside while getting moved around from facility to facility; having been shipped from Norfolk to Gardner to Old Colony to Shirley. When, last week, the administration at MCI Shirley confiscated Wayland’s personal belongings, they took every letter, every scrap of paper, every book, his musical equipment and his writing supplies. They even took his typewriter. He’s been given a 30 day notice that his items will be destroyed if they’re not otherwise disposed of, which means he needs folks from the outside to take action urgently.
Over the summer, when Wayland’s Access Corrections tablet battery began to swell to the point of bursting– a known defect in that particular model– the administration used that opportunity to confiscate his tablet saying that “modifying” (which apparently includes removing the battery for a moment to prevent a fire) any item was against DOC policy. Shortly after, he was attacked with chemical weapons for hesitating when they told him he was going to be moved to Old Colony.
We are asking for the following action items to help send the message that Wayland has people outside who love and support him, and that we’re not buying the DOC’s continuous refrain of “just following orders”:
We are asking that people take 5 minutes to send an email to the DOC commissioner and the superintendent of Shirley, demanding that his items be returned.
Prison officials must respond within 10 days to a physical letter, therefore we are asking that people take a moment to write a letter of protest and put it in the mail. Please find a template below. Letters should be addressed and sent to:
Superintendent Michael Rodrigues
P.O. Box 1218
Shirley, MA 01464
If you have some funds to spare, please send Wayland something to read, preferably on abolition. Books can be received from booksellers such as Barnes and Noble or AK Press but not from third party sellers like Amazon. X is a voracious reader, so please no introductory texts. If you’re not sure what to send, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.