End Solitary in MA (Mental Health Comm)

Ensure the Constitutional Rights and Human Dignity of Prisoners on Mental Health Watch!

Currently, people with behavioral health needs are immensely over-represented in the criminal justice system; 36% of males and 81% of females in Massachusetts’ prisons have open mental health cases requiring access to better mental health services. The trauma of the prison environment greatly exacerbates symptoms of these conditions, and individuals at risk of suicide in our jails and prisons can spend months in solitary-like conditions.

In a recent report by the Department of Justice, correctional officers assigned to oversee mental health watch exhibited a willful disregard for prisoner safety by falling asleep while watching suicidal prisoners, encouraging prisoners to engage in self-harm, and failing to stop instances of self-harm. In some instances these practices resulted in prisoner injury or death.

This bill to ensure the constitutional rights and human dignity of prisoners on mental health watch (S.1567/H.2089) will begin to rectify these very serious safety and constitutional concerns. The legislation prohibits our prisons and jails from placing possibly suicidal prisoners in what is effectively solitary confinement, ensures all decisions made about the treatment of such prisoners are made by qualified mental health professionals, and removes officers from watching suicidal prisoners if the officers violate suicide prevention policies.

This bill has had its deadline extended to May, and you can support the campaign to End Solitary Confinement in MA by contacting the members of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery and urging them to report this bill out with a favorable vote as soon as possible.