Where is the Department of Public Health?

News stories this week have shown the spiraling crisis inside Massachusetts jails, prisons and detention centers. On Sunday, June 21, a prisoner at MCI Norfolk collapsed in the middle of kitchen duty. He was later diagnosed with COVID19. His fellow workers were placed in solitary confinement, as there’s simply no medical infrastructure to support a quarantine.

Yet in all of this, there is a single entity whose responsibility it is to oversee the health of people inside. And frankly, they’ve failed. Last month, immigrant rights organizers demanded an inspection at Bristol County. DPH listened. However, just as with MCI Norfolk, where DPH allowed the water to run brown for over a decade, DPH was inexplicably unable to find anything wrong at Bristol (we are told their inspection report is due out next week).

While we are sympathetic to the overwhelming demand put on the public health community during this pandemic, it is unconscionable to look at what is happening at places like MCI Framingham, MCI Shirley or Bristol County and say that this is acceptable, that is is the best we can do.

Prisoners at hotspots like MCI Framingham and MCI Shirley report guards showing up to work sick, administrators ordering staff to come in anyway. Prisoners are using the same flimsy masks for two weeks at a time. Infirmaries are full. A clause in the MCOFU collective bargaining agreement allows for guards to simply opt out of testing, with no requirements for containment. The virus didn’t come from prisoners. It came from staff, and it’s time DPH acknowledged this.

Building up People not Prisons is asking for help.

Call DPH Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel at (617) 624-5200.

Hello, I’m contacting you about the COVID-19 humanitarian crisis in Massachusetts prisons, including the outbreak at Norfolk prison. I know that almost half of women inside Framingham contracted COVID19. I’m aware that guards are not being tested at multiple pirisons. Extensive, inhumane lockdowns and months without visits are punishment; not protection. Our incarcerated community has been forced to endure intense and lasting harm to their physical and mental health. The DOC’s response thus far has been a total moral and public health failure. Please

Commissioner Bharel, I’m concerned about the COVID-19 crisis in Massachusetts jails and prisons, including Bristol County Jail and Norfolk prison. I am asking you to do your utmost to protect our loved ones who are incarcerated. I’m aware the DPH reports don’t capture what our incarcerated community is forced to endure day after day. In order to protect the lives of those who are incarcerated, DPH immediately needs to:

1. Use your moral authority and public health power to urge Governor Baker and the Massachusetts Department of Correction to decarcerate in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19

2. Use statutory powers to implement rigorous, public, and transparent oversight of DOC, especially during the pandemic

3. Issue an injunction against any respiratory irritants, including pepper spray and tear gas, within prisons, jails, or detention centers

4. Ensure all prisoners are given new, clean mask replacements daily

The humanitarian crisis continues. Please use your voice and position of authority to pressure the DOC, Parole Board, and Governor Baker to immediately decarcerate jails and prisons starting with people who are 50 years old and older and all people with pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to contracting and dying from COVID-19. Thank you. 

Call DPH DOC Commissioner Carol Mici at (508) 422-3302.

Hello, I’m contacting you about the COVID-19 humanitarian crisis in Massachusetts prisons, including the outbreak at Norfolk prison. I know that almost half of women inside Framingham contracted COVID19. I’m aware that guards are not being tested at multiple pirisons. Extensive, inhumane lockdowns and months without visits are punishment; not protection. Our incarcerated community has been forced to endure intense and lasting harm to their physical and mental health. The DOC’s response thus far has been a total moral and public health failure. Please change course now. I am asking you to use your power as the Commissioner to approve all people’s medical parole who are 50 years and older and all people with underlying health conditions. Guards must be regularly tested, not just screened, in order to work at any DOC facility. Thank you.

Medical professionals / public health workers

We’re asking folks with medical/public health backgrounds to email DPH, using this template:

Commissioner Bharel,

I’m writing as a [public health professional/healthcare professional] to express deep concern about the COVID-19 crisis at MCI-Norfolk and Bristol County House of Correction. We know there have been recently confirmed COVID-19 cases in both places, and we urge DPH to do your utmost to protect our loved ones who are incarcerated. Forthcoming inspection reports that confirm the DOC narrative that “everything is fine” is outrageous, given what we know to be true from our loved ones inside. In order to protect the lives of those who are incarcerated, DPH immediately needs to:

1. Use your moral authority and public health power to urge Governor Baker and the Massachusetts Department of Correction to decarcerate in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19

2. Develop and implement rigorous, public, and transparent oversight of the DOC’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis

3. Issue an injunction against any respiratory irritants, including pepper spray and tear gas, within prisons, jails, or detention centers

4. Ensure all prisoners are given new, clean mask replacements daily

It is past time to use your voice and your public health authority to pressure the DOC, SJC, Parole Board, and Governor Baker to immediately decarcerate all people, starting with those 50 years old and older and all people with pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to contracting and dying from COVID-19. 


There’s more: head over to tinyurl.com/MAweekofaction every week for more things you can do to help our people inside.

Update from NCCI Gardner uprising, May 9th


Yesterday, DOC Commissioner Carol Mici posted a memo in all MA state prisons announcing that people who are incarcerated would be allowed back outside into the yard starting next week. This was one of the 3 demands that incarcerated organizers at NCCI-Gardner put forward as they refused food trays this week and which all of you helped us amplify.

However, two of their demands remain unmet and two people remain in solitary confinement in retaliation for incarcerated people speaking up about the horrible conditions inside, refusing trays, and instead sharing purchased food with one another. One of those people, Jeremy Woodley, is hunger striking until he is returned to the general population. You can read a letter from Jeremy below.

Please take 3 minutes TODAY to call and email Commissioner Carol Mici. Urge her to meet the remaining demands and free our organizers from solitary confinement. We must keep the pressure on. Call script below:


Carol Mici

Hi, my name is ___. I am calling on behalf of incarcerated people at NCCI-Gardner, who have been refusing food trays for the past week in response to the current lockdown conditions at the prison. In response to this, I demand you to meet these needs immediately:

1) Free them all.
2) Until they are freed, provide healthier, more substantial, and more varied food options.
3) Stop retaliating against incarcerated organizers and return anyone in solitary confinement to the general population.

Can you confirm that these demands will be met in a rapid timeline?

Jeremy’s letter and ticket

Retaliation at Gardner

update: as of 5/7, we have been informed that more of our people are being sent to solitary, disciplinary charges being handed out

We just received word that our friend and inside organizer, Wayland “X” Coleman, was thrown in solitary confinement this morning at NCCI-Gardner. The DOC has not yet given a reason why. We suspect it’s connected to the protest happening there now.

Please call the NCCI-Gardner superintendent’s office NOW to demand Wayland be returned to general population. Comment with your conversation below to help us keep track of the DOC response.

Please also email the commissioner by clicking here.

Phone script:

Call: 978-630-6000 ext. 102

Hello, my name is _____. I’m calling on behalf of Wayland Coleman (W65484). I heard that he was thrown into solitary confinement this morning without any reason. Can you tell me why Wayland is in solitary confinement?

(They will likely claim they cannot tell you for security/confidentiality reasons).

Solitary confinement is torture. There is absolutely no reason Wayland, or anyone, should be there. I demand that he be released and returned to the general population immediately. Can you confirm Wayland will be returned to his unit?

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

Prisoners protest conditions, strike for decarceration at NCCI Gardner

The MA DOC has put prisons across the state in lockdown for the past 31 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These restrictive conditions and the danger that COVID-19 poses to incarcerated people have led folks inside to take action. Today at NCCI Gardner, 41 prisoners refused their food trays for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, sustaining themselves from food and water stocked up from the canteen. 

The incarcerated organizers have three demands:

1) Free them all. All those who currently have the power to release people (Governor Charlie Baker, DOC Commissioner Carol Mici, district attorneys, parole and probation boards, MA Department of Public Health) need to exercise their power to decarcerate immediately.

2) Until they are freed, provide healthier, more substantial, and more varied food options. Right now, the DOC is only offering meal options that are woefully inadequate in portion size and alarmingly high in carbohydrates and sodium content. These meals put those who are incarcerated at risk of developing or worsening chronic diseases.

3) Until they are freed, allow those who are incarcerated time to go outside into the yard. Since April 3, prisoners at NCCI-Gardner have been locked in their units 24/7 with no fresh air. Allowing them to go into the yard once a day for 30 minutes would not present further risk of disease spread, since they would remain with the same people in their units regardless. Being able to breathe fresh air would only improve the health and well-being of those incarcerated.

On April 24th, we posted a log of one week of food being served at NCCI Gardner. This document was provided to a nutritional epidemiologist, who had the following to say:

To Whom It May Concern,

The food provided at MCI Gardner is not meeting basic needs, based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, and putting people with existing health conditions at risk. Total calories provided average around 2350 calories per day, which will only meet the needs of some in the population (it will be too little for many in the population, depending on body size and activity level). The meals also lack adequate servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. On average 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables are offered a day, well below the recommended 2 ½ servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits. The majority of meats served are processed and packaged foods high in simple sugars are served with every meal. Processed and simple sugars make up 100% of the daily breakfast options. As can be expected, because of the lack of plant-based foods in the meals provided, they are woefully low in important nutrients including fiber, iron, calcium and vitamin D; nutrients whose intake are linked with prevention of numerous diseases, including colorectal cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and anemia.

The sodium levels in the meals provided is the most appalling aspect. Per 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, sodium intake should not exceed 2,300mg per day and those at increased risk of high blood pressure should not consume more than 1,500 mg per day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47% of men in the US have high blood pressure. These numbers likely underestimate the prevalence of high blood pressure in the MCI Gardner population, as 1 in 5 adults has high blood pressure and is unaware of it and Black adults are more likely to have high blood pressure (54%), a demographic systematically overrepresented in carceral systems. With this in mind, the current meals served at MCI Gardner average 3000mg per day (with many meals much higher), which is twice the recommended sodium intake for any in the population at increased risk of high blood pressure (likely at least half of the population). The meals are also likely to exacerbate health conditions for any individuals on specialized diets, especially those who are managing diabetes mellitus as the meals are very high in carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates which make blood glucose control very difficult. Because of the processed nature of the foods, they are also harmful for anyone who may have renal issues, as all meals exceed the recommended levels of sodium, potassium and phosphorus for those at increased risk.

In my professional opinion, the meals currently being provided are nutritionally inadequate and put the health and well being of those at NCCI Gardner at risk of developing chronic diseases, as well as make managing many chronic diseases nearly impossible for those with preexisting conditions.


Hannah Cory MPH, RD

Update from Wayland Coleman, April 29


[ Transcript below | listen on Soundcloud ]

All right. So it’s been a while since everybody’s heard from me, verbally. And right now I just wanted to talk about what’s been on my mind, the coronavirus. So I’m gonna try to at least speak to, you know, maybe once a week or twice every couple of weeks because you know, nobody really knows how much time any of us really have right now. 

And so no, I don’t know what’s gonna happen with us over the next month or two months or three months or whatever. So, you know, we came to the coronavirus showing up in residence and, you know, we’re not in the best environment despite what our government says. So I don’t know if I get sick, can I die from it? possibly. I have heart issues. I have a history of pneumonia. So I don’t have the strongest right lung. So, um, like I said, we never know. And so I can explain as I can. But who knows. And so I just want to share a few of my thoughts. 

One of the things that’s kind of been upsetting me is that the way our government incarcerated has been like put on the forefront right now. And when you have the people who have the authority and the powers to release people from correctional institutions– that they call it, correctional– when they fail to use those powers in this type of situation, and pretty much let us all sit here with the potential of really dying. It says a lot about a lot of the things that I’ve been talking to you about in regards to the dehumanization of incarcerated people. 

One of the things that Baker said that’s really been sitting on my mind for a while, is that you know, with that we’re better off inside of the prison, And that’ll be the furthest thing from the truth. Different prisons got different types of environments but I don’t think any prison is a good place to be. If that’s the case then you know, why not swap spots with me, you know? Let me go home and you come up in the prison if you think they’re so safe. And so one of the things with that statement is that you know, you got a place like Gardner that’s where I’m currently housed. Gardner is the very ideal environment that they .tell people to not be in. Don’t be in a dorm setting, especially close close quarters with you know, you’re away from people don’t share facilities like we have three things for forty people. I’m sure nobody has been encouraged to do that. You know, share one thing with every person maybe once or twice a day. You know that the very thing that telling you not to do. 

So we’re in that type of environment and those are some things I wanted to point out just to give an example of you know, how unsafe This place is in this particular pandemic situation. So just just to give you some insight in a way that I have to live in a dorm, so I’m in one building. We’ve been locked in this building for about a month or more, and we haven’t been able to go outside. We can’t go out fresh air to stretch our legs or anything. So this building that I’m housed in has 80 people. So there are two floors. So you got a first and second floor, and each floor is a dorm that we live in. 

So each floor holds about 40 people. So I live upstairs on the second floor, in a dorm setting with about 40 people. In that dorm, we have one bathroom shared with all of us is three sinks per bathroom. So it’s three sinks that we’re sharing. We have five phones for 80 people. We have one shower for 80 people. We have both living quarters. So my living quarters 60 square foot of space is shared by about six people. 
And so that’s how close we are.

So we don’t have, we can’t possibly practice in a way that we have to live here. And so we get these memos from the commissioner’s office telling us, you know, it’s a practice safe distancing, all they’ve given us so far as hand sanitizers. And they’ve only recently gave it given us one mask. So they’ve given us one mask about four days ago. And there’s no knowledge or whether or not they’re going to give us you know, a new mask every week or what it is or is that one mask is supposed to last the duration of pandemic, who knows? But they gave us one disposable mask, the light blue hospital mass. And that’s it. 
And then they put out these demos and hey, just try to stay six feet away from each other. And like I said, it’s just not possible. That’s not possible because I sleep less than six feet away from people. 

So so we’re in trouble. And the thing that they’re banking on is the fact that there hasn’t been any cases in Gardner yet and so I think that because our so called state leaders are saying that you know, there’s no cases in Gardner yet and you know, there’s no need to start thinking about releasing people. I think it’s a bad idea to have a reactionary type of mentality at this point, because if the case hits this prison– when it hits this prison– because I believe we’re gonna get, it’s hit illogical and unreasonable to assume that you know, this prison isn’t gonna get any cases of coronavirus throughout this entire pandemic. 
So when we get hit, there’s not gonna be any way possible to stop the spread of this virus, it’s gonna go like wildfire and a lot of us ain’t gonna make it. 

And so what I’ve been trying to do with this is somehow put pressure on our state system to try to act for the prisons. And you can already see this, you know, what 70 cases as of yesterday in Framingham, this was there was 106* cases reported yesterday at Shirley, so it’s coming. 

And so I was actually hoping for some type of action before that happened, because it now they’re not going to want to release anybody. And then they find their justification for not wanting to release anybody. And so right now, what is the justification for not releasing?
We’re in a dorm setting. And the only way to make it even possible for the practice is to release people trapped and decrease the population because other than that I can’t stay away from. There’s a guy next to me on the phone, he’s only about three to four feet away from me right now. That’s not six feet. The phones, and remember, we have five phones. so it doesn’t not matter. 

So those are some of the things I just want to point out about our living environment. Another thing that has been concerning me, we have the staff preparing our food. So they serve us in every day. The staff makes the food and then they bring it in, you know, some of the individuals in the unit pass out the food. So I haven’t eaten any any of it with the exception of anything that comes in a wrapper, or fruit. Things that come in the wrapper are hand sanitized and the fruit is washed. And sometimes I’ll let it sit for days before I eat any of it, and I haven’t eaten and of the meals that’s been prepared by staff. And the reason for that is staff are the only way we’re going to get infected. And so I feel that if they prepare enough, then it increases our likelihood of getting an infection at some point.

So I survive essentially off whatever I have in canteen. That’s the kind of what’s going on in the world. 

How is , how do you say, the mental environment is going? There’s a lot of frustration, because it’s one thing that we’re locked in this building, we can’t go outside at all. So we’ve been locked in his building. And we have a rec room where, you know, we can play pool cards or something like that. And what they recently started doing was when they bring medications into the unit, they started using our rec area as the medication area. So what they do is they kick everybody out in order to do meds.

Now this is also our shower area. Now, when they do meds they have sometimes they can take up to an hour to get the meds done. So they come around seven o’clock sometimes a little later, and then they leave eight o’clock sometimes a little later. So this interferes with our shower time. We only have one shower time and interferes with our recreation because they kick us out. 

So one of the problems is that the so-called quarantine is becoming more punitive for us. It’s supposed to be a strategy to prevent the spread of coronavirus or to help us, but, you know, a cop will always be a cop. You know? And so it still becomes punitive. Because now, you know, it’s the barking orders, you know, taking our recreation and taking our shower time and stuff like that. 

So there’s been a lot of frustration growing. And this frustration is good for me, because I like organizing. And so we are willing to try to come together a little bit to make our voices heard because, you know, like I say, we don’t know how much time we got. If coronavirus hits this prison, unfortunately, a lot of people is not going to make it. There’s a lot of people with health issues living, you know, three feet away from each other, four feet away from each other. And so a lot of people won’t make it. 

So we’re willing to raise our voices a little bit and then some action that you’ll be seeing soon enough. Once that happens, though, the thing is, I don’t know if we’re capable of convincing this government that incarcerated people need to be released. Massachusetts want to hold on to us, you know, and even more so with so-called “violent crimes”, you know, anything constitutes a violent crimes. You have a guy who got sent back to prison recently because he was in possession of a firearm. Allegedly. And that constitutes a violent offense, mere possession of a weapon. And so he wouldn’t be free. So under a non-violent crime bill, just because he has a gun. And so his sentence along with all of our sentences has the potential to be a death sentence. And it’s only because, you know, they don’t want to let people go. 

So I think one of the things we do need to take note of right now is that every single sentence right now, everybody serving time in state prison is currently serving the death penalty. Right? Whether or not your death penatly date will come is the question, but every single conviction, I argue has been converted to a death sentence. I wasn’t sentenced to die, but I could, and a lot of other people, you got people, you know, they’re supposed to go home in two or three years, they wouldn’t even fall under this bullshit guideline of trying to release people close to you, you know, a six month wrap up period. I mean, are you kidding me? 

So the person who’s supposed to go home next year, don’t don’t even count. So that person can die, you know, because he’s not so close to wrapping up? So that’s the problem with Massachusetts. They want every single piece of fucking time you know, if we can get a extra minute out of us, they want that minute. And yet they just want to squeeze as much time as they can possibly squeeze out of us. And I think that’s inhumane in itself. So every sentence is converted into a death sentence. 

So my question is, what are people going to do about that? So we all have death sentence. I know people don’t really know, put us on a pedestal have been important. You know, one of the one of the things that I’m still trying to fact check whether or not Baker said, is that, you know, “let’s be mindful that good people out here are dying”, when it came to the question of whether you should release people in prison. And, you know, I was told he made a statement that good people out there are dying. 

And so, there’s all kinds of problems with that, because, you know, if our lives are not valuable, right, if we’ve forfeited all value of living regardless of what we were incarcerated for, we completely just forfeited the value of our lives. Then what was the whole point of the entire so-called judicial system or justice system? 

What’s the point of a person being sentenced to three to five? When his life ain’t worth it anyway. So why not just lined us all up against the wall and just, you know, put bullets in us? Because that’s kind of like what that suggests. So it also suggests that everybody’s guilty. So, what about people like myself who are not? You know, people who’ve been railroaded, people who’ve been misjudged, you know? 
I was a 19 year old black kid, being judged by an all white jury. So what about those in the 90s, where white people were completely afraid of black teenagers? So I mean, how fair was my trial? So what happens when people have in justices andthey’re trapped in these cages. 

And you know, this is not their fault. You know, they were captured by the police force them in the situation, then you say, well they lived in this zone that, you know, the criminal justice system is free of human error. No, it’s a perfect system, you know, everybody that the court convicts, that the jury says is guilty is guilty. That jurors understand the law so well, and the procedure so well, that they’re free of ever making any type of error because these middle class white people essentially know everything so they can never be wrong. So our lives are not valuable because they said so. 

So I just think there’s all kinds of problems with that statement and with the situation that we’re in. We’re just not getting a fair shot at fending for ourselves and taking care of our lives. So right now my life is completely in the hands of being locked in this fucking building. And hopnig that a case of coronavirus don’t enter this building. Because I can’t go nowhere, they lock the doors on me so I can even try to run outside. 

So my life is in the hands of hoping that these cops are clean enough to not bring that shit in. And so yeah, I’m a little pissed off about that, because I don’t want my life to be in their hands. I’d rather take my chances out there. 

So yeah, so just a few thoughts I wanted to share, because you know, it isn’t a good place to be in. It isn’t the best place, as Baker would say, for us to be in. Again, if that’s the case, then why don’t you take my spot and I’ll take my chance our there?So I’m venting a little bit. That’s really all. We talk about a lot of stuff in here. I’m still trying to encourage these guys in here to stand up and be willing to fight, I mean who cares if you piss off the cop, you they’re potentially killing you anyway.

So yes, I really don’t care to piss them off. So, so that’s just my thought for now and like I say, I know I’m venting a little bit but I think you guys should hear some of what we’re going through inside of here and see what happens with that and I’m gonna keep pushing to get out of the prison and I’m gonna do my best to stay safe in here. So you’ll hear from me again. And so, I hope you guys take note of what I’m trying to say, that you know, we are people so please remember that.

Message from inside from Gardner

Death Stalks the Massachusetts Department of Corrections

by — Brian D. Knippers 

Comm. #W-95692

I’m writing this knowing I’m going to die. I have already Said my goodbyes to family and friends. I’ve made the phone calls, written the letters and shared tears with my loved ones. I’m prepared to die and I accept it, but there’s another way.

I write to you from NCCI-Gardner. I am an incarcerated person placed in the custody and care of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. I reside on the second floor of a dormitory unit on the westside of the prison known as housing unit, ‘H’. As far as we’re aware, we the prison population of NCCI-Gardner, there are no known cases of Covid-19 in the prison at this time. However, based on imperical analysis, raw data and a little commonsense, those of us who’ve analyzed the expected explosive growth of the Corona Virus anticipate the virus:being brought into the prison — by a correctional officer, or, essential staff member — in the next 14 days.

If necessary precautions were being taken to prevent the outbreak and spread of the Corona Virus here at NCCI-Gardner I’d feel more optimistic about my chances of survival. But, beyond several basic safety: measures instituted by Carol Micci, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, there’s been little action taken to prevent the inevitable outbreak and spread of Covid-19.

Per a directive by Commissioner Micci we are currently in the midst of a 14 day lock-down. We only leave our unit to receive medication. However, in doing so, hundreds of prisoners congregate in the vestibule of the, “New Gym,” at various times awaiting to receive their medication. We’re escorted to the gym in small groups, Six to eight prisoners at a time, but inevitably prisoners touch the doors and metal paneling in the waiting area. We cluster together to await our turn to receive medication. The door’s closed and the – air in the front of the gym doesn’t recirculate well. In other words, we are exposed. And, due to the overwhelming number of incarcerated people who take medication at NCCI-Gardner — ‘we have an aging prison population — there’s no end to the number of incarcerated people who are shuttled back and forth to this building. This coordinated effort to keep us safe might be more effective if the staff cleaned the area in between groups, but that’s not being accomplished. The M-DOC may be telling the public that the safety of incarcerated people is their number one concern, but it’s not…it’s clearly not.

This, in concert with being in a building with 80 men who share six sinks, five phones and one shower, make the likelihood of the | virus spreading through our ranks at an incredible pace disconcertingly realistic. The Department of Public Health requires 60 square feet of floorspace per incarcerated individual. In our unit, by my best estimation, six men Share sixty feet of floor space. We’re stuck on a small cruise ship with no walls, or cabins. I know ‘I sound as though I’m foretelling a doomsday scenario, but that’s what it is.

There are two additional preventative measures in place that amount to almost nothing. I say almost because one of those measures is to provide us with hand sanitizer. I know washing your hands is the best way of breaking down the coronavirus, but it’s nice to have hand sanitizer at your disposal as a portable alternative. Although, I must note that the M-DOC’s website claimed that we had access to hand sanitizer four or five days prior to the first hand pump appeared. on our unit.

The second measure, or additional measure being taken, is the mandate that correctional officers wear masks. Unfortunately, some of the officers find the masks uncomfortable and they remove them — or leave them hanging around their necks — at their leisure. This may seem trivial, but our only risk of exposure comes from the prison staff bringing the virus into the prison. Please take a moment to contemplate that statement. Our exposure is entirely dependant upon those we have the most antagonistic relationship with.

I’m not saying a correctional officer, or essential staff member, would intentionally bring Covid-19 into the prison, but at the same time I don’t believe many of these men and women would lose sleep if the prison population here at NCCI-Gardner became infected. Well, beyond the fact that it would inhibit their own safety. I’m sure the masks would stay firmly in place if that was the case.

We must appeal to the powers that be and ask that all  incarcerated persons be released immediately. There’s no death Sentence in Massachusetts, why should I be held to a standard that doesn’t exist. Massachusetts is Supposed to be a progressive state, but right now all I see is red tape and political posturing. No one is pushing for immediate action. Ultra conservative states are moving at a faster pace than Massachusetts. Does this make any sense? Those like myself who are immunocompromised are at a much higher risk of dying from Covid-19. Also, incarcerated persons who are 55+ are at a much’ higher risk of perishing from:the~Corona Virus. Why is Massachusetts caught in a state of inaction? 

Keeping the prison population locked down and waiting for the inevitable to take place is no: way to combat this virus.. There’s no such thing as social distancing in prison! There’s no protocol| that will protect us unless we’re released. I sleep in a bunk with another incarcerated person. Four’ feet two my night there’s another. bunk with. two more incarcerated persons. Two feet to my left there’s another bunk with a couple more incarcerated people. We’re in this together. If anyone in our dorm becomes infected, we all share this infestation. There’s no protocol, or security measures the M-DOC can take to eliminate this immediate threat.

It’s a joke to think you can control Covid-19 when social distancing is impossible. It’s a no win situation unless the decision makers in the Massachusetts State Government start making some decisions and releasing incarcerated people.

Like many incarcerated people I’m immuno compromised. As I mentioned in the beginning of this essay I may as well be dead — if I catch Covid-19. And, I’m not alone. Whether you’re immunocompromised, 55+ years-old, obese, a former smoker, or an unhealthy person for any number of reasons your chances of survival become dramatically reduced. I didn’t sign-up to die in prison. I know it’s a possibility, I’m only human, but I wasn’t sentenced to death.

The crime I committed doesn’t justify a death sentence. None of our crimes justify a death sentence. I’m just one of a number of men and women who’ve served a lengthy prison sentence. When we’re released the vast majority of us~will simply go about. our lives. We will adhere to the governor’s restriction that you stay home. We are incarcerated people. We  feel, we see, we touch, we have loved ones, we matter.

 With your help, your compassion, and your love may we be released into the

arms of those who love us and spared death, alone, imprisoned. 

COVID-19 Mutual Aid Initiative

As our communities work to identify ways to care for one another during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the National Bail Fund Network has put out a call for organizations around the country to make sure our loved ones inside jails and prisons around the country have access to the supplies they need to stay as safe and healthy as possible during this time. While the ultimate goal is and always will be total decarceration and the abolition of the carceral state, in the meantime there are millions of people around the country who won’t be allowed to come home.

As an answer to the National Bail Fund’s call and following the tremendous organizing by groups like Survived and Punished—  who have already raised well over $6600 to send soap and cleaning supplies to people in New York prisons— Black & Pink Boston and Deeper Than Water are teaming up to make sure that our people inside Massachusetts jails and prisons have what they need and we need your help to do so.

Prisons are inherently toxic, and ultimately, decarceration is the only answer. While harm reduction initiatives like these are essential to maintaining the survival of our loved ones inside, the ultimate answer always has and always will be total decarceration, as this is the only step that can truly mitigate the tremendous harm done daily to our communities.

However, our people on the inside need protection right now from the harms of infectious disease. If COVID-19 gets into prisons and jails, the spread will be rapid and deadly due to overcrowding, poor conditions, and medical neglect. Joining in the call from organizations nationally, we will do what we can do reduce harm now by ensuring our loved ones inside have soap, hand sanitizer, bleach, and other cleaning supplies to follow the public health directive for protective hygiene to prevent disease. 

How can you help?

  • If you only have a moment, please donate to the GoFundMe created for this initiative. All money that is donated will go directly to mutual aid efforts. 
  • Please fill out this form if you are willing to help us send money directly inside. We will get in touch with you with instructions, names, and contact info. We will then reimburse volunteers directly; just send us a receipt and a way to reimburse you. This will help us expedite the process of getting supplies directly to the people who need it. 
  • See this call to action from Families for Justice as Healing to join the movement for clemency now. The more people we can bring home, the safer and healthier our communities will be, both outside and prison walls. 
  • While we can supply funds for personal hygiene items, the state tightly controls what goes in and out of prisons. Only the state has the ability to supply facilities like NCCI Gardner— whose open dormitory layout puts prisoners at elevated risk — with items like face masks and bleach to mitigate the spread of infection. Failure to do so would be unconscionable. Join us in demanding that the state provides soap, masks, and disinfecting wipes at no cost to those who are incarcerated for the duration of the pandemic. Tweet at @MassGovernor and @MACorrections. Or, text “SIGN FBENUE” to 50409 to send a letter directly to his office.

The state has failed and will continue to fail to protect the health and well-being of our loved ones inside jails and prisons. We will continue to step up as a community to provide what the state refuses to provide. Please join us.

In solidarity,

Black & Pink Boston and the #DeeperThanWater Coalition

Prisons and the pandemic: Decarcerate Massachusetts NOW!

Make sure Charlie Baker reads this message: tweet | email

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

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