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Lawmakers work on changes to prison visitation policies

By Jodi Reed | Nov 16, 2019

A bill before the Public Safety Committee right now aims to remove some of the rules that people must follow when trying to visit their loved ones behind bars.

The bill, filed by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz would remove the limitations on the number of individuals who may be eligible to visit an inmate.

Currently, when people try to visit someone incarcerated they have to first be approved and follow strict guidelines before, during and after their visit.

Senator Chang-Diaz said the current policies in place make it hard for inmates to return to civilian life once they are released.

“Ninty to 95 percent of folks who are serving time in our jails and prisons in Massachusetts are coming back to our communities and we want to make sure they’re prepared for successful re-entry by having strong community connections, strong family relationships that are going to sustain them both through the rehabilitation process and into re-entry,” Senator Change Diaz said.

If passed, the bill would also remove certain punishments like taking away phone time or canceling visitations in an attempt to lower recidivism rates.

Dozens of supporters testified in favor of the bill earlier this week, and more than 20 lawmakers have also voiced their support so it is expected to receive a favorable review from the committee.

View Senator Chang-Díaz's full comments on the bill here

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“Without a license, a routine traffic stop can have a lasting and traumatic set of repercussions: arrest, ICE detention, deportation. It can tear families apart, and that is a heavy, heavy burden to carry."

“It has been a long, long road for this bill,” Sen Chang-Díaz said. “This bill means trust and dignity for immigrants in our state who lack federal status.”

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