Prisons and the pandemic: Decarcerate Massachusetts NOW!

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Full text:

Dear Governor Baker,

This correspondence is to inquire into whether or not the Massachusetts Department of Corrections(DOC)have any strategic plans for dealing with an outbreak of the coronavirus in the prisons.

As an incarcerated member of our community, it is important for me to be concerned, considering that I am forced to remain housed in an environment that is perfectly suitable for the spread of viruses, especially when we consider that NCCI-Gardner is a dormitory setting where eighty people are closely housed in the same unit. This puts us at a greater risk of spreading contagious illnesses such as the coronavirus, and in addition, puts us in a poor position for possible effective treatment. Our lives are at stake.

It is not reasonable or intelligent to assume that the coronavirus will not make its way inside of the prisons. Staff alone will more than likely bring it in. We are able to assume that due to the limited testing abilities in our free society, that we will not even be considered for possible testing, which means that our situation will only be made relevant in the event of an internal epidemic, which for some, will be too late.

Since I, along with the rest of the incarcerated community of Massachusetts, are directly at stake of having to suffer out this virus without being considered for any medical testing, and by extension, care or treatment, it is in my (and all incarcerated people, and society as a whole) best interest to present some possible, intelligent, and practical solutions:

  1. Release all incarcerated people who have one year or less to serve on their sentences.
  2. Release via emergency parole, all incarcerated people whom are eligible for parole.
  3. Release all incarcerated people whom have a preexisting medical condition that falls within the criteria for being high-risk for death related to the coronavirus.
  4. Release all incarcerated people whom are over the age of fifty (50) years old, or whom are within the age range that would be considered high risk for death due to the coronavirus.
  5. Release all incarcerated people whom are in county jails.
  6. Release all incarcerated women within the state of Massachusetts.
  7. Provide the appropriate disinfectants that the medical specialist believe are effective for possibly preventing contamination of surfaces.
  8. Provide bottled water for all incarcerated people in Massachusetts, especially within those prisons that do not provide any clean drinking water sources (i.e., NCCI-Gardner).
  9. Provide medical facemasks to all incarcerated people in Massachusetts.
  10. Since incarcerated people are not considered in this emergency matter, those who are at high risk should have the human, and humane freedom to fend for themselves. Other suggested reductions in the incarcerated population would create an environment that may make it easier for those such as myself–who would have to stay and endure–to minimize contamination and survive an outbreak.
  11. Finally, the reduction, or complete closing of some institutions, i.e. MCI-Framingham and county jails, would make it possible to disinfect these institutions, which should be, in the least, a consideration.

Thank you for your time and attention to this very relevant emergency matter, and I do anxiously await your reply.

Submitted and signed,

Wayland “X” Coleman

call in for Juan, report back

(eg, how did the call go? did they offer any information?)

Call-in report: phone zap for James

This is to help us track the DOC’s responses. While the calls are most important, these also help us shift our messaging and adjust as we need.

Phone zap: demand that James be allowed to help his family bury his sister


The MA DOC is at it again. 

We received word earlier this week that one of our friends at MCI-Norfolk, James Horton, was denied access to his sister’s funeral. James meets all of the qualifications required under the DOC regulations for a 24-hour transport to attend the funeral of a relative. While these regulations allow funeral passes, the DOC regularly denies such requests, preventing people inside from being able to grieve the loss of family members in person. 

In this case, not only was James forced to miss his sister’s funeral, he was also forbidden from sending out $400 to help his family cover the funeral costs. This is a new DOC regulation within the last year that attempts to separate people from their communities further by preventing them from providing financial support with what little wages they make inside. 

It’s been a while since we’ve asked you all to make phone calls. James has asked for our help. Can you make a call today to demand he be allowed to help his family grieve? 

Please leave a comment when you’ve called to let us know how the superintendent responds.


Call MCI-Norfolk superintendent Steven Silva at (508) 660-5900 x 211

Hi, my name is (your name). I am a friend/concerned citizen calling on behalf of a prisoner there, James Horton, W108660. James’s sister recently died. He was denied the ability to attend her funeral and to send out $400 to support funeral costs. This is in violation of the very regulations the DOC claims to follow. I am calling to demand that he be allowed to help his family grieve. Can you confirm that he will be allowed to send $400 to the funeral home?


Hands up! Mics on! …and more

We are so excited to promote this amazing event that Black Lives Matter Boston is generously holding to support our work! Please please turn out if you are able, it will be an awesome show with amazing live music and tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door. Please RSVP so organizers can know what kind of turnout to expect.

“Hands up! Mics On!” is Friday, September 13th, starting at 5pm at the Democracy CenterFor accessibility information, click here.


We also want to acknowledge that so much is happening this weekend in so-called “New England” and we want to promote the excellent work of other groups challenging the carceral state. We know that it is literally impossible to be at everything but we want to encourage everyone who is able to do so to come out. 

This entire weekend, Cosecha Massachusetts will be taking the State House to task for 15 years of false promises to the immigrant community for the ENTIRE WEEKEND from Sept 13 at 10am – Sept 15 at 7pm. On the near endless list of crimes this state has committed against our neighbors, the refusal to provide drivers licenses has been one of the clearest affronts to so-called “sanctuary” status. For those who are unaware, traffic stops are one of the single largest entry points into the criminal legal system for people of color, with the added threat of possible detention and deportation for undocumented immigrants. Parents have been kidnapped by ICE just for taking their kids to school, and plutocrats like Charlie Baker have been making empty promises around providing a license option to immigrant groups for going on 15 years. There are a panoply of events within this weekend of action. 

ALSO: Tomorrow at 5:30pm, the Donald Wyatt Detention Center is holding their regular board meeting, which they cancelled this Monday due to fears of mass protest. This was unsuccessful as resistance is already mobilizing. There are currently threats of selling the facility to a private group like GEO or CoreCivic, both of which are companies that run concentration camps for ICE (see our #NoMoreCages posts for more). It is ESSENTIAL that potential buyers see that there will be no end to the opposition they will face if they move forward with this bid, and that NO ONE is backing down. Support groups like AMOR, FANG and Never Again Action as they continue to throw down to make sure business as usual is impossible. 

Press release: Boston March Against Cages / Marcha Contra las Jaulas


Boston March Against Cages / Marcha Contra las Jaulas Demands the American Correctional Association Stop Accrediting Abusive Prisons and Migrant Camps


August 4, 2019
Contact: (617) 315-4299,

BOSTON, MA- On Sunday, approximately 500 people shut down Boylston Street in a march to condemn the American Correctional Association (ACA) for supporting mass incarceration and immigrant detention.The ACA, a professional organization for the prison and detention industries, is in Boston August 1st-6th for its annual conference at the Hynes Convention Center. “We’re out here because we believe no one should profit off of caging human beings. We want an end to incarceration, whether it’s at the border or in our backyard,” says Mike Cox, an organizer with Black and Pink. The event was organized by a coalition of prison abolition groups and immigration justice groups, including Deeper Than WaterBlack and PinkBoston, Black Lives Matter Boston, and Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network.

The group carried signs that read “No Cages, No Camps” and “No Profits from Prisons” and chanted “Free the prisoners free them all, brick by brick, wall by wall.” When they reached the Convention Center, the group played recordings and read testimony of prisoners in Massachusetts prisons and ICE facilities. “I’ve suffered medical neglect and humiliations that have had serious consequences to my health,” said Jose Marco Tapete Gonzalez, who is currently detained at GEO group’s Adelanto Detention Facility. “I am sad and I feel very bad, but I’m not giving up. On the contrary, I’ll use this opportunity to expose the negligent treatment, horrible conditions and humiliations that we have to endure in ICE jails.” On Thursday, the ACA will host an awards banquet for the Senior Vice President of GEO Group, which runs the majority of detention facilities at the border and has earned $450 million in ICE contracts in the past two years. “It’s terrible, the psychological and emotional torture that’s happening at the detention facilities. It will take the effort of good people in this country to change the laws,” said woman seeking asylum and recently processed through the port of entry at Nogales, Arizona.

In their speeches, the protesters demanded that the ACA 1) shut down all prisons and detention facilities, 2) stop accrediting or rescind accreditation of facilities with documented human rights violations, and 3) make the credentialing process public. The ACA is the largest accreditor of for-profit prisons and immigration detention facilities in the US, and its accreditation process has recently come under national scrutiny for being little more than a rubber stamp. ACA-accredited facilities have been found guilty of widespread human rights abuses, including the recently re-accredited NCCI-Gardner, where prisoners have raised concerns that the water runs brown. “We can and we must build a world without cages,” said Elizabeth Rucker, an organizer with Deeper Than Water.

Around 500 people shut down Boylston Street in front of the Hynes Convention Center to protest the ACA Banner that says "BREAK THE CAGES... WE WILL FREE THEM ALL"

Who is the American Correctional Association?

In May of 2019, Deeper Than Water announced a campaign in partnership with local organizations to oppose the re-accreditation of NCCI Gardner by the American Correctional Association. Despite a long history of repeat health violations, as well as heart-felt testimonials from families impacted by this facility, the ACA ultimately re-accredited the institution.

Reporting by the Prison Policy Initiative and Prison Legal News has raised questions for a number of years about the exact nature of the ACA’s accreditation process. Recently, in the wake of horrific images coming out of ICE detention centers groups have begun to look into the massive deportation and incarceration machine that makes these camps possible, particularly on the companies and agencies that are supposed to make sure things like this never happen. The largest of which is the ACA.


So who are they?


Reporting over $16M in assets in 2016 with over $9M in annual revenue the ACA is the oldest accrediting body in the United States for prisons and detention centers. And while it is listed as a 501c3 entity with the IRS, it is a shockingly lucrative business: that same year, executive director James Gondle received over $440k in base compensation, with an additional $89k in “other compensation”, totaling annual earnings of over half a million dollars. While the agency reported lobbying efforts to the IRS, it failed to disclose just how much it spent in the process, leaving that part of their 990 filings blank.

The ACA can make as much as $10k on a single re-accreditation, but the high price tags ensure that no one is denied the ACA’s seal of approval. The ACA is a virtual degree mill for unscrupulous government agencies looking for a way to convince the public that everything is fine.  ACA leadership ensures that inspections will go off without a hitch by employing career prison officials from both the public and private sectors, enjoying a cozy relationship with groups like GEO and CoreCivic.


 ICE detention centers


The ACA has never met a detention center it didn’t love. 

For example, they accredit the ICE processing center recently visited by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, the El Paso Detention Center. El Paso also houses children who have been separated from their parents, many held in hieleras, or “freezer cells”.  El Paso is extremely overcrowded, and those who have visited the facility report that detainees are being forced to drink out of toilets to hydrate themselves.


Image outside the El Paso Processing Center


The ACA clearly has no objection to hieleras, as it also accredited the Cibola County Detention Center, where transgender refugee Roxana Hernandez died of pneumonia and HIV complications after being placed in a freezer cell this Spring.

Similarly, the ACA lists the Aurora Detention Center, run by the for-profit GEO Group. Aurora’s conditions are so bad that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released this damning report for horrific conditions. Aurora is currently accredited by ACA.

Records available through the Freedom of Information Act also show that the ACA has been accrediting the Florence Service Processing Center in Arizona since 2007, when it granted ICE a 180-day extension on their audit before regularly granting them accreditation regardless of what was found. Florence has a horrific record, which the ACLU documented in this 2011 report. Florence has been back in the news this year for a Mumps outbreak. All the while, FSCP has enjoyed accreditation through the ACA.

In 2015, widespread abuses of detainees at Florence made the news again, joined by Eloy Detention Center which even failed ICE’s own internal audit. Despite this, Eloy remains an accredited facility on the ACA’s website.



Shockingly, the ACA has also accredited some of the worst prisons in the United States, including the Lousiana State Penitentiary, more commonly known as “Angola”, from its time as a plantation.  Currently, Angola is the site of ongoing scrutiny for deadly medical neglect, stifling heat. A video smuggled out of Angola was part of the lead-up to the 2018 National Prison Strike. This prisoner-made video shows an inside look at the cells the ACA has regularly accredited. 

Angola’s operations have changed very little from it’s time as a plantation.


Many, many other notorious prisons have also received uninterupted accreditation from the ACA. The East Mississippi Correctional Facility, whose horrific conditions and widespread abuses of mentally ill prisoners can be seen in this ACLU report is among those accredited. 

picture of rotting cell at ECMF
This EMCF cell is one example of the conditions the ACA finds more than acceptable. Click on the image for a virtual tour of the facility, courtesy of the ACLU. 




At the Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, a pregnant woman in labor was put in solitary confinement for asking to see a doctor, forced to give birth alone. Other detainees described hearing the screaming from adjoining cells. Read the ACA’s glowing 2017 accreditation report of the Santa Rita Jail. 

The Dekalb County Jail, currently the site of ongoing protests shows a similar history of neglect and yet, inexplicably, re-accreditation. This may be more explainable than others, as some of Dekalb’s leadership sits on one of the ACA’s committees while the director of healthcare was nominated to the ACA Board in 2018.

instagram post from Dekalb


Something (still) in the water in Massachusetts

On May 10, the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) received two awards — one from the Massachusetts State Senate and one from the Department of Environmental Protection. The awards were for “outstanding performance and achievement” in drinking water programs at the MCI Norfolk, Cedar Junction and Pondville.

See: for a previous filter received at the start of our campaign


Earlier that week, we received a makeshift water filter made from a t-shirt from one of our inside organizers at MCI-Norfolk. You can see the filter below, discolored brown and with black shards of metal throughout, likely from the deteriorating pipes at the prison. The water at MCI-Norfolk remains unfixed and undrinkable, no matter how hard the state of Massachusetts is trying to cover it up by giving these undeserved awards. The award from the Department of Environmental Protection is particularly egregious, as this is the department responsible for keeping the DOC accountable to providing clean and potable water for prisoners.


Note: we are using a screenshot to prevent analytics stats from going to the DOC. If you would like to view the post in it’s original form, click on the image.


Please take a minute today to send three emails, demanding that the awards be revoked and that the Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts State Senate stop covering for prisons that are failing to provide basic human needs to those who are incarcerated:


  1. Yvette dePeiza, director of the Drinking Water Program for the Mass Department of Environmental Protection [ here to use our template 

  2. State Senator Karen Spilka [] and State Senator Paul R. Feeney [], representing the Norfolk region of Massachusetts on the State Senate
    click here to use our template


Let the people responsible for this award 
know how you feel.

The Prisoner Podcast

We are excited to announce the launching of a project that we’ve been working on for a while now, The Prisoner Podcast which will air live every Wednesday, hosted by brothers Adrian Coleman and Wayland “X” Coleman from both sides of the razor wire. 

One of the main difficulties in prison abolition work has been the dialectic of being prisoner-led without the ability to have prisoner voices live at most free-world organizing events. We believe that the most essential component of forging any true meaningful path to liberation involves actively pursuing ways to change this, and we aim to chronicle this process live. To date, Deeper Than Water has brought currently-incarcerated voices to protests, teach-ins, panel discussions and even a funeral where inside family were able to call in from the unit and participate in the memorial service. We hope to keep pushing these boundaries. 

Disallowing prisoner voices from communicating with the outside world, as well as the immoral prohibition on communication between currently and formerly incarcerated people, remains one of the most actively harmful policies of the carceral state. The state knows that a united people is the greatest threat to hegemony and will do anything in its power to stop this. 

At this stage, the show will be broadcast live every Wednesday at 7pm on this Youtube channel. Audio recordings will be posted to our SoundCloud page the following day and released on the Patreon page. The overall aim for this project is to provide direct access to what is happening inside, without interference from state or corporate actors. Adrian & Wayland will also be discussing political theory as it pertains to prison abolition. 


Prisoner Podcast News:

As many of you know, the Department of Correction has retaliated against Adrian by cutting off access to his brother. For Wayland’s statement, see the Soundcloud link above, or listen to the second episode of The Prisoner here: [ Soundcloud | Youtube ]