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Society is judged by how they treat their most vulnerable citizens. Inmates have very few rights and even less privileges. Now is the time to prove we are a just, humane, and compassionate society. Please sign this petition in support of family reunification and commonsense regulations.
Recently, some changes have been approved concerning the official rules and regulations of the visiting room procedures at all Department of Corrections facilities. In the name of security, 103 CMR 483.10 now requires visitors to register with each facility prior to visiting, as well as providing the institution with a copy of a recent photo. Pre-approved visitors will be limited to a maximum amount of 10, and a minimum of 6, for each inmate, depending on what prison the inmate is occupying, regardless of an inmates level of community support or family involvement.
Now, additional measures are being considered to further alienate inmates from their support system. According to a memo published on December 5, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of corrections "recognizes the importance visitors have on an inmates well-being and successful reentry into the community, and strongly encourages family reunification". However, the D.O.C. is currently preparing to implement seating arrangements that would impose on family intimacy and their privacy, therefore negating many of the benefits visitations have an inmate's rehabilitation.
Today, in many of the prisons, you are permitted to sit side-by-side with your loved ones. This is important because it allows prisoners to comfort their children when needed, to emotionally support their loved ones during difficult times, and encourages hand holding, which is known to build familial intimacy. In contrast, the D.O.C. is planning on sitting visitors across from each other at all institutions, disrupting this essential bonding experience.
There are a number of reasons this procedure would be problematic, but here are a short few. Inmates who have earned the right to be placed in lower security will be robbed of the benefits their good behavior has afforded them and making the term "contact visit" meaningless. Also, in many instances, an older parent or grandparent is all an inmate has, and this will put undue strain on those older visitors who have a hard time hearing over large crowds. And what do we say to a child in need of their parents touch or consolation ?
This impersonal seating provision is being considered in the name of security, namely lowering the intake of drugs through visitations. However, the highest drug intake per capita takes place in those prisons where sitting across from each other is already enforced. In addition to this observation, there has been no independently verified evidence or study to suggest that seating inmates across from their visitors, as opposed to sitting beside them, has ever reduced the flow of drugs into an institution.
There has been, however, ample evidence to suggest that a family friendly visiting room environment is conducive toward lower recidivism and disciplinary incidences. At least 95% of the prison population will one day return to your neighborhood. It is imperative the Department of Corrections does everything it can to facilitate strong familial bonds and community engagement, which ensures rehabilitation. If the D.O.C. is "Committed to ensuring the safety of all public, stock, visitors, and inmates" as it states in its 12/5/17 memo, then it must reconsider its decision to make this change.
Visitations, along with educational opportunities, have consistently been the most powerful rehabilitative tool the D.O.C. employs. It is beyond obvious; these changes are not the answers to keeping the community or the inmate safe. Alternative measures, such as drug detecting dogs for inspections, regular officer monitoring, seating arranged at tables, and vigilant visiting room officers, are all appropriate and satisfactory actions for preventing the introduction of contraband into the prison.
Our community demand that you stop your plan to further violate family bonding, and allow inmates to continue to sit side-by-side with their families, and that no further changes outside of the restrictive 103CMR483.10 are made.
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