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Massachusetts Prisoners Again Stage Hunger Strike Against Solitary Confinement

At Massachusetts’ maximum-­security Souza-­Baranowski Correctional Center (SBCC), 19 prisoners held in the Secure Adjustment Unit (SAU) began a hunger strike in October 2023, alleging conditions like solitary confinement despite state law reforms limiting its use.

The protest began with a letter to Attorney General Andrea Campbell (D) on October 18, 2023, in which prisoners described “dire” conditions in SAU, with limited out-­of-­cell time and restricted activity. They requested an investigation into use of solitary confinement and said officials with the state Department of Correction (DOC) “have made little effort to ameliorate the conditions” in SAU. Ironically, many prisoners were transferred to SBCC after the June 2023 closure of MCI-­Cedar Junction, a prison notorious for use of solitary.

After the prisoners’ letter, 20 legal and advocacy groups also wrote the Attorney General on November 3, 2023, to support the hunger strikers’ request for an investigation into the legality of DOC practices at SBCC. Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts reported that several state lawmakers advocated on behalf of the striking prisoners. State Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven (D-­Middlesex) said she was one of “over 15 state legislators” who had met directly with strikers Tykorie Evelyn and Elosko Brown.

“We have heard them loud and clear,” she added, “[that] they are regularly confined in some kind of cell, cage, or shackled for over 22 hours per day with no end date in sight for when they will be released from solitary confinement.” Uyterhoeven called herself “deeply concerned” that this violates protections in the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018 for state prisoners held in Restrictive Housing.

DOC denies using solitary confinement, but advocates like the Boston College Law School Civil Rights Clinic remain unconvinced. They point to the conditions at SBCC and a lawsuit dropped against MCI-­Cedar Junction due to the transfer of prisoner plaintiffs, who now seemingly face similar privations at SBCC.

“The conditions are horrific and oppressive,” declared Clinic Director Reena Parikh. “Our clients are being subjected to indefinite solitary confinement.” Parikh added that further litigation is possible if conditions do not improve at SBCC.  


Source: WBUR

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