Oversight Commission for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections sign now

We the Undersigned with grave concern and sense of urgency request Governor Deval Patrick to sign an Executive Order creating a permanent independent Oversight Commission for the Department of Corrections as proposed by House Bill 2240.

We believe that an Oversight Commission which would oversee the operations and activities of the Department of Corrections such as finances, public works, health, education, etc. This commission would perform an important role in gathering information on the functioning of the Department and ensuring, through their oversight of management officials, that corrupt practices do not take place. Furthermore, this commission can be an excellent starting point for the simplification of administrative procedures and would support your commitment to public transparency and governmental accountability. The Department of Corrections is housed under the Executive Office of Public Safety, with a budget of $549 million and responsible for the wellbeing of thousands of inmates including women and their families and directly linked to the safety of our communities.

We affirm that the Department of Corrections is too critical to operate without any independent oversight. As outlined by the 2004 Governor's Commission on Corrections Reform, chaired by Mr. Harshbarger detailing the need for corrections reform, we urgently need a body that can independently evaluate the Department of Corrections.

Most recently the following events are making our demand dire:

October 9th, Department of Corrections Commissioner Clarke abruptly resigns;

October 8th incident at MCI Norfolk where Brent Stevenson was assaulted, and subsequently hospitalizes, by a Corrections Officer as reported by the Inmate Council Minority Chairman

October 8, 2010 Attorney General Eric Holder announces $110 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 funding for the Second Chance Act reentry grants and the Justice Reinvestment Initiatives. MA is not one of the recipient

September 13th - The Boston Phoenix article Trouble Over Bridgewater described one of MA Correctional Facilitys as the Prison from Hell outlining documented abuses at Old Colony Correctional Center

July 16, 2010 national statistics show that MA suicides are occurring at a rate more than four times higher than the national average

In 2009, sensitive CORI information was illegally released from Old Colony Correctional showing a need for secure data management

In Massachusetts state prisons, recidivism statistics show a slight reduction in rates over the past few years. At the same time, though, admissions, custody levels, and overcrowding rates are on the rise. From 2004 to 2007, the criminally sentenced custody population at the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) increased 10 percent, by 897 inmates.

It is our responsibility as a community to ensure the safety of our people both behind bars and on our streets. We request an emergency action meeting to discuss this request of you signing an Executive Order creating an independent Oversight Commission as proposed by House Bill 2240.

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Jasmine StoutBy:
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Deval Patrick

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