Deep culture change at the Department of Corrections is long overdue. From last year’s Department of Justice report on violations of prisoners’ Constitutional rights, to the Falcon report on dangerous solitary confinement practices, to the Boston Globe’s Spotlight series examining violent abuse against prisoners at Souza-Baranowski, DOC has shown—over and over again—a reckless and immoral disregard for the lives in their care.
In their recent editorial, the Boston Globe called for independent oversight, and that’s exactly what we need. We need a strong, independent, permanent oversight body empowered to conduct investigations, deliver consequences, and make policy changes. We need an oversight body that’s able to recognize these incidents for what they are: not the work of a few bad apples, but a pattern of systemic abuse and negligence. And one that, unlike the Department of Corrections itself, believes in transparency.
Last year, amidst commonsense calls for police reform, we passed legislation that stood up a civilian-led board with the power to oversee, investigate, prescribe standards for, and, when called for, de-certify law enforcement officers. Let’s not wait any longer to do the same for corrections. The health, safety, and human rights of too many people—not to mention the moral credibility of our Commonwealth— are at stake.