Massachusetts Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition

...Building momentum towards a moratorium on jail and prison expansion





06 / 15 / 2006

Stop rape, torture, and abuse in jails and prisons

04 / 05 / 2006

Community coalition applauds anti-jail stance of gubernatorial candidate; Invites candidates Patrick, Healey, Reilly, Mihos to support fiscally, socially responsible policy

03 / 13 / 2006
With liberty and justice for some: Incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment

03 / 08 / 2006
Why Women Are Not Best Served by Incarceration. A SHaRC Position Paper

03 / 08 / 2006
Prisoner panel recommendations are socially, fiscally irresponsible: Community coalition opposes new jails; demands housing, healthcare and human rights

03 / 08 / 2006
SHaRC to attend State House briefing on women in prison report: Reformers exploit International Women's Day to push pro-jail agenda

02 / 13 / 2006
Education not incarceration: It's time to stop the school-to-jail pipeline

In 2005:

Jobs, Not Jails

Housing and Human Rights,
Not Jails

Health Care,
Not Jails

 Cliff Thornton

DPA Conference 2006

Also see

"Torture in U.S. Prisons"





Why does the "home of the free" lock up 2 million adults and children-most of them people of color?

"The uncomfortable truth is that the national attitude on crime is more firmly grounded in race than in putative crime rates. The surge in crime rates occurred between 1965 and 1973. The general trend since that time, with 'blips' in 1989 and 1991, has been for crime to either remain stable or to decline.

While most people assume jail overcrowding results from rising crime rates, increased violence, or general population growth, that is seldom the case. Here, in order of importance, are the major contributors to jail overcrowding:

  1. The number of police officers

  2. The number of judges

  3. The number of courtrooms

  4. The size of the district attorney's staff

  5. Policies of the state's attorney's office concerning which crimes deserve the most attention

  6. The size of the staff of the entire court system

  7. The number of beds available in the local jail

  8. The willingness of victims to report crimes

  9. Police department policies concerning arrest

  10. The arrest rate within the police department

  11. The actual amount of crime committed

It is common for a 'trickle-up effect' to set in. Although there may be little or no change in the ways serious crimes are handled, those who engage in minor infractions of the law end up receiving harsh penalties as well, thereby 'casting the net' of social control ever wider. Such matters should give the nation pause as we move aggressively to build more prisons and camps, but there is little to suggest any respite."


From American Gulag (link below), Jerome G. Miller, 2000

Overcrowding isn't necessary. It's deliberate.


Stop legitimizing human rights abusers!

Would Massachusetts DOC Commissioner Harold Clarke know a human rights violation if he saw one? We are convinced not. WHY? Because he has been an employee of Corrections for over 35 years. Clarke rose through the ranks to become Secretary of the Nebraska DOC, a position he held for 14 years before moving to Washington State DOC from 2005 to 2007. At Gov. Deval Patrick's invitation he now heads up Massachusetts DOC. Award winner and former Washington State prisoner Paul Wright's publication, Prison Legal News has, since 2000, published several critical articles in which Clarke and the Nebraska DOC have been the subject.

PLN Articles:

"I have a story to tell--about how a doctor can be used to kill patients. I will talk to anybody you want me to. I spent twelve years of my life, and these people pushed me around and turned me into  something horrible. I am ashamed of what I have become... I really am. For the first time, I stood up and said, "I can't kill anymore. Too much. These are human beings, for crying out loud."

Dr. Faisal Ahmed, interview with Nebraska  Ombudsmans' Office

Sept. 15th, 1998.



A 30 year veteran of Nebraska's DOC, once seated as Nebraska's Secretary of "Corrections", Clarke maintained a blind eye to denial of medical care. The needless death of a prisoner who received no emergency care when he suffered a heart attack in September 1998 led Dr. Faisal Ahmed to blow the whistle on prisoner health care and Clarke's oversight. A 1999 report by the state Ombudsman's Office found the prison health delivery system wanting in "every aspect". The report, over 114 pages with hundreds of additional pages of exhibits stated, "In summary, we have found the agency's medical department to be understaffed, inadequately trained, poorly organized and badly led."

Secretary Clarke's response? Dr. Ahmed was suspended three times in the year following. The State Personnel Board concluded the doctor was a "whistleblower under the Government Effectiveness Act." Dr. Ahmed filed a federal lawsuit against Nebraska prison officials in March, 2000.


WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE ACA? (American Correctional Association), September 2005

The ACA is a membership organization of corrections officials, whose dues pay for accreditation inspections. ACA standards are woefully lax and seldom enforced. Clarke was elected president of the ACA in Sept. 2008. During his tenure as Nebraska DOC Secretary, and shortly after his Department was the subject of a scathing Ombudsman's Report, he evaluated the Suffolk County (MA) jail and House of Correction as an "impartial" evaluator for the ACA. Clarke's review gave the scandal-ridden County lock-up a score of 98.96. "Shortly after accreditation, seven guards were charged with federal crimes for assaulting and abusing prisoners. In addition, a number of women prisoners have come forward to report rapes and other forms of sexual abuse by male guards at the jail." The Globe reported on June 20, 2001, "Suffolk Jail Audit Group Faulted, Critics Demand New Review Panel."

ACA and DOC Affiliations: Conflict of Interest

Shortly after Clarke's election as ACA president he loosened the already lax medical oversight and evaluative standards of county lock-ups by assigning the ACA as the sole evaluator for MA county corrections.

Since Clarke's arrival in Massachusetts, prison wardens have imposed ever more punitive conditions, in contradiction to the 2003 Governors Commission on Corrections Reform recommendations. Prisoner health care is as deplorable as ever.

Selected recent "events" within the MA-DOC:

1) For three years Patrick, held at Bridgewater, has been refused tests to diagnose and treat a large lump on the back of his neck. He reports that the lump has lately increased in size and become painful and that more lumps are appearing on his body. Guards and medical staff stymie his repeated efforts to obtain care.

2) Last week elderly prisoner Harry lay bleeding out for hours in his bed at the MCI-Shirley Health Services Unit. Poor monitoring of his Coumadin (a blood thinner) levels nearly killed him. He was sent to the Intensive Care Unit at Brigham and Women's Hospital. His wife of more than twenty years was not told about this emergency. The DOC subsequently ordered B&W not to inform Harry's wife of his status.  Her calls to DOC administrators, including the Commissioner, were ignored.  Not until the intervention of an outside watchdog, The Wrongful Death and Injury Institute did the DOC release documents detailing his medical condition to his wife as required by law;

January 2009--An Old Colony Correctional Center prisoner bangs on his cell door for thirty minutes for medical help. His cellmate cries out to the guards too. There is no response.  The prisoner is dead within the day.

3) In November 2008, MCI-Bay State Superintendent Corsini instituted a 9:30pm to 5:30 am curfew on bathroom access. Corsini easily obtained a waiver from Department of Public Health regulations to shutter a bathroom on each of its three floors during the night.  (Bay State has "dry cells"; the prisoner rooms cells do not have toilets.) Corsini has slashed visiting days and hours repeatedly. He ordered staff to remove seats and tables from the visiting area thereby deliberately creating overcrowding and causing loved ones to be turned away. Treatment of visitors has worsened.

We cite these examples as only the latest in a long train of rights violations. Whether or not you agree that incarceration creates more problems than it solves, people are sent to prison AS punishment, not FOR punishment; anything else is extra-judicial.

If the U.S. is to stop military torture abroad we must acknowledge domestic torture and abuse on the local level. After all Clarke is part of the system that brought us Charles Graner, Lance Trotter, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, waterboarding and electric shock torture of civilian suspects, and sensory deprivation torture units. It is up to all of us to follow through and hold human rights violators and their collaborators accountable.

Please consider this information as you watch reformers and advocates, eager to build relationships with the DOC, disassociate from the systemic abuse in an effort to make mass incarceration more palatable. 

At What Point is Justice Served?


Why Terminally Ill Prisoners are Left to Die Behind the Walls of the Massachusetts State Prison System

From a MA prisoner, December 2008

Factoring in all of the medical expenses and security cost, the last few years in the life of Nick Montos cost Massachusetts tax payers in excess of one million dollars. At the expense of the Commonwealth, Mr. Montos had received triple by-pass surgery, the implantation of a pace maker, cancer treatment, and medical services for a host of age-related illness, not to mention emergency life ending care. Mr. Montos, who at the time of his death on November 30, 2008 was 92 years of age, and barely able to walk without the assistance of other prisoner, surely could not have posed any threat to public safety.

What does the term Custom Therapeutic Module
mean to you?

See the Massachusetts Department of Correction's interpretation:


To view, point to and click on the images.

When Liberal Paternalism Becomes Collusion with the Department of Correction

Read Torture as therapy and therapy as punishment

BREAKDOWN: The Prison 'Suicide' Crisis

Advisory: SHaRC cannot confirm the veracity of this series. Reader beware.

Part 1: Inmates at risk

With 15 suicides in three years, inmates have taken their own lives in Massachusetts prisons at roughly triple the national rate for state prisons. And hundreds more inmates are hurting themselves and attempting suicide. A Globe Spotlight Team investigation found that most of the deaths came after careless errors and deadly decisions by Department of Correction officials and health staff, at times when inmates were obviously at risk.


Part 2: An inmate's suicide

Nelson Rodriguez was a mentally-retarded 26-year-old when he hanged himself in the notorious 10-block isolation unit at MCI-Cedar Junction. Unable to master the rules of prison life, he was repeatedly punished with solitary confinement.

Part 3: Desperation, frustration

As prisons become the asylum of last resort for the mentally ill, desperation, frustration and violence are rising on both sides of the cell door. About 50 times each month, inmates are assaulting prison staff members. And, at nearly the same rate, inmates, many of whom say they are abused by officers, attempt to kill or injure themselves. The Spotlight Team examines the tension between mentally disturbed inmates and their jailers.

What Do Prisoners Have to Say?

The $40M Ripoff


Call to Action. There is an opportunity to bring OUR insight, our expertise to this issue and to the greater public next week. There are many avenues here for effecting REAL CHANGE.


Testimony regarding House No. 1723, Petition of Carl M. Sciortino, Jr., and others relative to the construction of new correctional facilities and providing for an investigation of incarceration and its impact on public safety, 08 May 2007


Oversight Hearings on Prison Suicide and Prison Mental Health, 01 May 2007

Testimony of the Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition

Supporting Documentation

In memory of:

2007 Jarred Aranda - Mark Cunningham - Russ Dagenais - Francelina Soares Furtado - Miguel Velasquez

2006 Glen Bourgeois - Nicole Davis - Anthony Garafolo - Michael Keohane - Steven Koumaris - Eduardo Soto - Johnny Walker

2005 Pedro Alvarez - Andrew Armstrong - Ronald Binnette - Daniel McMullen - Nelson Rodriguez - Jason Smith - John Yovino

2003 Kelly Jo Griffen


"[President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to."

~ Diary of H. R. Haldeman

Chief of Staff, Nixon Administration

In 1971, Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs.

That failed war continues to have a grossly disproportionate impact

on people of color. Link



For Your Consideration




Prison Voice

A newsletter for and by

persons imprisoned

in MA facilities


































May June









American Friends Service Committee

Felix Arroyo, Boston City Council

ARISE for Social Justice


Boston Workers Alliance

Will Brownsberger, 24th Middlesex

Center for Popular Economics

Citizens for Participation in Political Action

Community Change, Inc. - Boston

Community Church of Boston

Connecticut River Valley Green-Rainbow Party

Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard School of Law

Critical Resistance

Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts

Efficacy - Hartford, CT

Freedom Center

Girls, Inc., Holyoke

Grammas for Ganja

Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts

Incite! Women of Color Against Violence

Jericho - Boston

Peter Kocot, 1st Hampshire

MA Coalition for Healthy Communities

MA Welfare Rights Union

Out Now

Paloma House

Prison Book Program - Quincy

Prison Book Project-Western MA

Denise Provost, 27th Middlesex

Carl Sciortino, 34th Middlesex

Springfield Catholic Workers

Survivors, Inc.

Reverend Filipe C. Teixeira, OFSJC, Northeastern Diocese of Saint Francis of Assisi, Catholic Church of America

Through Barbed Wire

Tom Mooney Local Socialist Party USA

Traprock Peace Center

Chuck Turner, Boston City CouncilUAW Local 2322

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Western MA International Action Center/Troops Out Now

Women's Fightback Network

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom-Boston




Best viewed in Internet Explorer. Last updated on Thursday December 31, 2015.

Copyright 2004-2016
Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition (SHaRC).

For general information, send an e-mail. For information on this Web site, contact the .