District Attorney Rachael Rollins and State Representative Jonathan Santiago jointly filed an amicus letter on May 7, 2020 in a case brought by incarcerated individuals seeking an order of the Supreme Judicial Court to ensure the lives and health of high-risk inmates by reducing the state’s prison population. It is as follows
“As a lawyer and a healthcare provider, we share an equity-driven, public health-minded approach to our work. To protect our communities, we know there can be no us versus them, no victim versus defendant, no haves versus have nots,” the elected officials wrote. “A failure to protect the most vulnera-ble among us is to jeopardize the health and safety of our entire community.”
The amicus letter was submitted last week in the case Foster, et al. v. Mici, et al. The plaintiffs in the case are all currently incarcerated or civilly committed in facilities operated by the Massachusetts Department of Correc-tions and all have medical conditions that increase their risk of death from COVID-19. The civil matter names DOC Commissioner Carol Mici, Secretary Thomas Turco of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Parole Board Chair Gloriann Moroney, and Governor Charlie Baker, as plaintiffs. Sever-al of the plaintiffs will become eligible for release in the coming weeks to months or have been approved for parole but remain held. Despite their pend-ing return to the community. These individuals currently face the heightened risk of dying in prison due to conditions in the facilities that prevent them from taking recommended social distancing and hygiene measures.
“There is no death penalty in Massachusetts. No person incarcerated at a DOC facility has been sentenced to death by COVID-19,” District Attorney Rollins said. “Social distancing is the difference between life and death. Pre-venting the spread of COVID-19 behind the wall protects the lives of not only the people incarcerated, but also of the corrections officers, prison employees and contractors and the families and communities they go home to at the end of each day. As elected officials, Rep. Santiago and I represent these commu-nities and are responsible for keeping them safe. The best way to achieve both public safety and public health goals is to reduce the rampant spread of COVID-19 behind the wall through the release of individuals from jails, houses of cor-rection, and prisons who do not present a meaningful risk to the safety of the community.”
In addition to his role as a legislator, Representative Santiago is a physi-cian on the front lines of efforts to reduce the spread and deadly impact of COVID-19.
“COVID-19 doesn’t respect rules,’’ said Rep. Santiago. “It only knows sur-vival through transmission and the overcrowding and unhygienic settings often found in correctional facilities allow for the virus to spread. These conditions put inmates at risk for sickness and death and therefore, releasing certain non-violent inmates who do not present a meaningful risk to the public should be done to not only limit their exposure, but prevent spread to other inmates and staff.”