FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2022
Contact: Tatum A. Pritchard, Interim Executive Director and Director of Litigation
Disability Law Center Releases Investigation Report Concerning the Experience of Prisoners with Disabilities in Two Department of Correction Facilities
Boston, MA – Today, the Disability Law Center (DLC) issued a public report summarizing its findings and recommendations for corrective action arising out of our investigation of COVID-19-related lockdown conditions, infection control measures, and access to health care at two Department of Correction (DOC) facilities – MCI-Norfolk and MCI-Shirley. DLC initiated the investigation in April 2020.
While recognizing that the challenges DOC faced during the pandemic were unprecedented as well as DOC’s extensive efforts to adapt, DLC ultimately found that DOC’s actions and omissions with respect to two issues constituted neglect of prisoners with disabilities. First, DLC found that DOC failed to institute appropriately intensive infection control measures to protect residents in the MCI-Norfolk Clinical Stabilization Unit from COVID-19 in late 2020, resulting in every one of the 16 elderly and/or medically vulnerable individuals living in the dormitory contracting the virus in December 2020. This failure constituted neglect. Second, DLC found that DOC sanctioned the policy and practice of its contractor, Wellpath, that delayed and strictly limited access to vital health care services for much of 2020 and 2021 and resulted in widespread neglect of DOC prisoners with disabilities.
DLC’s recommendations for corrective action are aimed at ensuring that the failures in meeting the needs of vulnerable incarcerated persons – including those with disabilities, with serious or chronic medical conditions, and of advanced age – identified during the investigation are not replicated during future periods of COVID-19 resurgence, outbreaks of other infectious disease, or institutional events that may lead to restrictions on movement and access to DOC programs and services.