Massachusetts is now considering its strategies to deal with coronavirus as the expected surge in mid-April approaches. This is why the state’s Supreme Judicial Court held a hearing of the emergency petition filed to release the inmates who are susceptible to the outbreak.
The court hearing lasted for more than four hours where the prosecution council argued that the number of prisoners held in captivity should be reduced under the Prison Rights Protection Bill.
The petition was put forward by ACLU of Massachusetts, the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers who call for the release of the prisoners and those held on pretrial detention.
However, seven district attorneys of the state opposed this petition while the other 4 were in favor. After the hearing on Tuesday, Rachael Rollins, the Suffolk District Attorney supported the claim in a statement and asked for the option to be considered due to these special circumstances.
However, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said that the petition can put the lives of inmates as well as the locals in danger, according to MassLive.
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said that it would reveal the decision after consultation in the next 24-48 hours as reported by Gulluni.
“We’re really sensitive and we’re really compassionate towards the threat this poses to people who are incarcerated,” Gulluni said. “I don’t want that to be lost in arguments of public safety.”
He also said that 16 individuals have already been let out of prison on account of coronavirus by Hampden County so they are taking necessary measures when required. Other than that, 16 more inmates are asking the Court to release them and one of them is Robert Nompleggi who is in prison on accounts of murder charges. However, he is still held in captivity and Gulluni says that there are no intentions of letting him go.
Gulluni states that he wants to protect inmates who are susceptible to coronavirus and is doing everything in his power to protect them but releasing hundreds and thousands of prisoners on account of COVID-19 is a very risky decision. Therefore, he wants to assess every case individually and see what they can do for inmates.
They are people whos backgrounds we’ve looked at, who we have determined don’t pose a great risk to public safety or a particular victim and who have a really identifiable issue that makes them more vulnerable where they could contract COVID - Gulluni said.
Source: NBC Boston
He is one of the six district attorneys in Massachusetts who have opposed the petition along with Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz, Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr., Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe and Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn.
According to Gulluni, the Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement agencies are also against the petition as their work would increase because of the dangers these individuals might inflict in the state.
However, Rachael Rollins said in a statement, “People do not stop being human the day they are sentenced. Although some have made terrible choices or engaged in reprehensible behaviour, the sentence they received for their crime did not include contracting COVID-19 and death.”
So far, 10 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus in Massachusetts while five members of the Department of Correction have also acquired it .