On April 13, 2018 Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law S.2371 & H.4012 or An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform. The new law makes several sweeping changes to criminal justice laws in Massachusetts.
This blog post addresses one aspect of the new law: incarceration amendments.
What does the new law say about LGBTQ+ Prison Health?
Section 218 of the new law establishes a special commission to study the health and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex prisoners in correctional institutions, jails, and other houses of correction to evaluate current access to appropriate healthcare services and health outcomes.
The eight-member special commission will consist of appointees from the police, the judiciary, and correctional facilities.
In addition, the members of the special commission access all state prisons and houses of correction in the commonwealth.
What information will the new commission study?
Moreover, the special commission will gather information on:
- The number of prisoners who have received diagnoses of gender dysphoria or transition-related healthcare
- Number of prisoners who have been denied diagnoses of gender dysphoria or transition-related healthcare
- The number of denied requests for an alternative housing or facility placement by prisoners
- Training provided to department staff and contracted health professionals on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex cultural competency
Also, more than one year after the effective date of the act, the commission will be required to prepare a report including specific recommendations to improve outcomes, a timeline by which specific tasks or outcomes will be achieved, and recommendations for improving prisoner health and safety. No more than three years after the effective date, the committee will have to submit a final report to the Commonwealth government.
What about transgender incarceration?
Section 93 of the new law states that the fact that a prisoner is LGBTQ+ is not grounds for placing them in restrictive housing.
Section 95 talks about high school equivalency opportunity. What's that about?
This part of the law states that at least one educational program leading to the award of a high school equivalency certificate must be available to all persons committed to the custody of a correctional facility and who have not obtained a high school degree or equivalency, for at least six months.
Will inmate visitation rules be changed?
Section 92 of the new law amends the rules regarding inmate visitation.
This section states that a correctional institution, jail or other house of correction cannot:
- Prohibit, eliminate or unreasonably limit in-person visitation of inmates
- Coerce, compel or otherwise pressure an inmate to forego or limit in-person visitation
Unreasonably limiting in-person visitation includes providing an eligible inmate fewer than two opportunities for in-person visitation during any seven-day period.
A correction institution, jail or other house of correction is permitted to use video or other types of electronic devices for inmate communication with visitors. Such communications must be in addition to and must not replace in-person visitation.
The visitation privileges of individual inmates can be temporarily suspended for good cause, which may include but is not limited to misbehavior during a bonafide emergency.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT CRIMINAL JUSTICE, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
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