Prisoners' Legal Services

Right now, racial justice is at the forefront of the legislative and policy agenda in a way never before seen in Massachusetts. If Black Lives Matter in Massachusetts, then we have to address the prison system and include incarceration as a fundamental racial justice issue. The racialized impacts of law enforcement do not end at the jailhouse door, and our racial justice agenda cannot end there either. The Massachusetts population is approximately 27% people of color, and yet the DOC population is 57% people of color. 11.4% of African American children have an incarcerated parent, whereas only 1.8% of white children have a parent who is incarcerated. Our racist policing systems lead directly to black and brown people being disproportionately imprisoned and black and brown communities and families bearing the brunt of the traumatic impacts of incarceration.  

Incarcerated people and their families have been deeply impacted by COVID-19, and have been enduring solitary confinement conditions for months.  Now more than ever, we need policy reform to ensure that incarcerated people at the very least have access to visitation, no cost telephone calls, programming, and education. And we must improve our broken parole system, which is inhibiting people from timely release amidst a pandemic.

THIS WEEK, we are asking for all of you to support legislation that will forward the rights of prisoners, their families, and their communities:

  • We must pass critical legislation that would help keep families together who are impacted by incarceration:

    • An Act to strengthen inmate visitation, S.2662, expands visitation rights for incarcerated people and their families and An Act relative to inmate telephone calls, S.1372, would end telephone call profiteering and allow families to stay in touch without cost.

  • We must pass legislation which would ensure that corrections resources are utilized to provide programming and education to incarcerated people:

    • An Act relative to education and programming for the incarcerated S. 1391/H. 2127, would provide every incarcerated person with baseline rights to programming and education during their incarceration.

  • We must pass legislation which would improve the parole system:

    • An Act relative to parole,  H.4607, would increase the number of people on the parole board in order to increase the speed of decision making, and ensure that its membership includes people with experience in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, social work, or the treatment of substance use disorder. The current parole board is stacked with members who have primarily law enforcement backgrounds, which leads to it acting mainly as a gatekeeper rather than a fair avenue for release.  

FIRST: Please call or email the following legislators, and urge them to pass S. 2662, S.1372, S. 1391/H.2127, and H. 4067.

Sample Script:  I am calling because I believe that incarceration is a critical aspect of racial justice in Massachusetts, and I know that prisoners and their families have been deeply impacted by the hardships of COVID-19 and months long lock-down conditions.  I urge you to please report S. 2662, S.1372, S. 1391/H.2127, and H. 4067 out favorably. These bills would help keep families impacted by incarceration together, ensure that every incarcerated person has access to programming and education, and improve the parole board.

SECOND: Please call or email the members of the Black and Latino Caucus, and the members of the Senate Racial Justice Task Force, and urge them to include this legislation in their Racial Justice Initiatives. 

Senate Racial Justice Task Force:

Black and Latino Caucus:

Sample Script: Thank you for your leadership in forwarding a racial justice agenda in the Commonwealth.  Incarceration disproportionately impacts black and brown communities, and I am calling to ask that you ensure that issues impacting incarcerated people and their families are included in racial justice reforms.  Please include the provisions of S. 2662, S.1372, S. 1391/H.2127, and H. 4067 in racial justice legislation that is being crafted, and please include additional reforms that will help incarcerated people and their families.

Thank you for taking action today.