Push to release Massachusetts inmates amid pandemic

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BOSTON, M.A. (AP) — Prisoner advocates in Massachusetts are redoubling their legal efforts to release inmates from state prisons because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts argued in a Suffolk Superior Court filing Thursday that the state Department of Correction needs to release inmates to home confinement, furlough, medical parole and other legal measures so that the remaining prisoners can safely socially distance behind bars.

The organization submitted accounts from roughly 40 inmates about crowded conditions in state prisons and their fears of contracting COVID-19 to bolster their appeal.

Prisoners’ Legal Services also said four prisons — MCI-Norfolk, MCI-Shirley, NCCI Gardner and MCI Concord — account for nearly all of the more than 1,000 new cases of the virus in the correctional system since October 29.

“The failure to create the opportunity to distance inside prison walls has resulted in uncontrolled outbreaks, mass sickness and preventable deaths,” Elizabeth Matos, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement Thursday.

The state Department of Correction declined to comment on the pending litigation, but noted its inmate population has dropped by more than 1,200 people since March, and its facilities are at 61 percent of capacity.

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