Death by Default

Massachusetts doesn’t have the death penalty anymore. The last execution happened back in 1947. However, with the rapid spread of Covid-19 through the correctional system, it’s becoming clear that we are by default imposing a death penalty of sorts on every single person incarcerated in this state by subjecting them to unsafe conditions.

MA correctional facilities rank as some of the most dangerous facilities in the country according to a recent report by WBUR. Reports of large numbers of incarcerated people being forced to sleep closer than six feet from each other makes a mockery of social distancing guidelines, and creates an undue risk that is fueling the extremely high rates of infection in these facilities.

And in Bristol County, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson is trying to win a prize for the worst treatment of the people under his control. On Friday, incarcerated people in Dartmouth were subjected to dog attacks and pepper spray after they raised concerns about the safety of Hodgson’s plan to pack them together in close quarters to get tested for Covid-19. There are already calls for an investigation.

When Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz showed up to visit the jail, Hodgson broke the law by denying her entry (Massachusetts legislators have the right to visit any correctional facility unannounced).

Hodgson has been a problem for a long time, and there needs to be a full investigation into this man who once promised to help Trump build his wall by sending incarcerated people from MA facilities to work as laborers. 

Take Action Today

These aren’t Massachusetts values. We need to take a stand to protect the people incarcerated in our correctional facilities NOW. There is a class action lawsuit working its way through the courts to try to grant some relief, but we need our elected officials to act, and not to hope the courts solve this issue for them.

Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa has filed a bill H.4652, “An Act regarding Decarceration and Covid-19” which would require a certain minimum standard of living conditions for the people in correctional facilities and requires the release of those incarcerated people who pose no physical threat to the community. This shouldn’t be controversial—this is something that should have been done weeks ago.

You can take three easy steps today:

  1. Send an email testifying in support of H.4652 to the judiciary committee, which is holding a hearing on Tuesday. You won’t be able to testify in person, only over email sent to: Claire.Cronin@mahouse.gov and James.Eldridge@masenate.gov. Write “Testimony in Favor of H.4652” as the subject line. Deadline is Tuesday at 5PM.

  2. Ask your Rep & Senator to co-sponsor this bill: You can look up their contact info here. You can simply forward your testimony to your legislators with a note at the top asking them to co-sponsor the bill.

  3. Call Governor Baker and ask him to use his executive and emergency powers to take action to reduce overcrowding and unsafe conditions in correctional facilities now, and to ask him to support an investigation into Sheriff Thomas Hodgson who is flagrantly putting people’s lives at risk. (617) 725-4005