BOSTON (CBS) – Hundreds of inmates in Massachusetts prisons have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. More 1,000 have been released to try to reduce the population, but advocates tell WBZ that’s not enough.
Jasmine Borges spent 12 years behind bars. She says getting COVID-19 can be a death sentence in prison. “My sisters and I are mothers, daughters, wives and humans,” Borges told WBZ.
The Massachusetts Public Health Association says 22 percent of people in prison have tested positive for the coronavirus and so far, seven inmates have died.
Reverend David Lewis of the Calvary Baptist Church in Springfield said, “social distancing is impossible to do in prisons and infections are spreading.”
Some of the highest percentage of cases is at the state’s women’s prison in Framingham, where last week, advocacy groups held a car rally demanding the release of eligible women. On Tuesday, Legal Aid and other supporters unveiled a 10-point plan for what they call “decarceration.” That includes granting early release to inmates who are within six months of parole and compassionate release for the vulnerable.
“Urgent action to depopulate prisons and jails is needed now to save lives before this crisis grows worse,” said Carlene Pavlos of the Massachusetts Public Health Association.
In April, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled detainees charged with non-violent crimes can petition for release. The parole board says in the past month more than 1100 inmates have been released and hundreds of others have been issued release permits. The parole board also says it is working to provide discharged inmates with stable housing in the community .
Jasmine Borges says that is urgently needed. “When my sisters and I come home, and understand we do come home, 95 percent of us come home,” Borges said. “We will be able to have a chance at living successful lives.”
The Department of Correction said it has tested 2800 inmates for COVID-19 and is following CDC and Department of Public Health guidelines.