Chris Faraone’s September 10 “Troubled over Bridgewater,” about abusive conditions at Old Colony Correctional Center, performed a valuable public service. It has been too long since the voices of prisoners were heard without prior screening by either the Department of Correction or prison legal advocates. The last local print reporter to do such a fine job was the Phoenix’s own Kristen Lombardi.
However, a serious error was made in an assumption to which Mr. Faraone gave voice. I read with great dismay, “In theory, human-rights crusaders, including those at the Massachusetts Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition, would support a plan to house mentally ill patients in a central institution. But they are concerned that, considering a slew of recent episodes, OCCC is not prepared for such an adjustment. As proof they point to the two suicides that have already taken place there this year — one of which occurred inside a mental-health unit.”
It is difficult to understand how my words, spoken or written, possibly could have given Mr. Faraone the idea that centralized cages would ever be acceptable to us. I am, as are those who posted to the Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition Web site, categorically opposed to segregated, centralized units and to Residential Treatment Units that DOC, Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, liberal legislators, and many “prison advocates” favor. Most of all, we oppose the labeling of so many prisoners as mentally ill when the conditions inside create enormous despair. We speak against the acculturization of so-called mental-health professionals who staff programs within the DOC.
I look forward to more prison reporting in these pages. Faraone has struck a blow against the DOC’s massive public-relations machine.
In our September 10 cover story, “Troubled Over Bridgewater,” the exterior photographs were not of the Old Colony Correctional Center, but of the Southeastern Correctional Center, which is in the same Bridgewater complex as OCCC but was closed in 2002. In the story, we mention that Robin Pearson worked at OCCC. She worked at the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center, which is also in the same Bridgewater complex as OCCC. And we wrote that former OCCC superintendent Paul Murphy shot his wife in a Rhode Island restaurant. The restaurant was in Westport, Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border, and the woman was taken to a Rhode Island hospital for treatment.