In Norfolk prison, Alan was a young man long-accustomed to his serotonin inhibitors, who on the anniversary of his mother and father's death, was denied the drugs. He had complained of the side-effects and in recourse, was denied proper medical care. Alan became suicidal, planing to assault a guard in front of other guards thinking they would kill him. He was taken to 10 block, which friend Caroline Bays came to learn was "a nightmarish, horrible horrible hell hole."
This morning I met Caroline over zoom, not having any idea we shared in common an interest. For this meeting, convened to charter the historic launch of Massachusetts Progressive Alliance, envisioned to unify and strategize with respect to 97 member organizations across the state, she had drafted the goals, structure and operations.
Six months later he was given an internal trial. Caroline had arranged for an advocate who came from Harvard Law School. "It was a complete sham: the correctional officer is the judge."
"They took him off cold turkey and he had a nervous breakdown. He didn't really hurt the officer, but it was so egregious in their eyes, they needed to throw the book at him."
Alan ended up in DDU--MA's most notorious solitary confinement ward.
"I spent a lot of nights crying, scared for his safety" Caroline said she even found a childhood friend of Charlie Baker and convinced him to reach out to him and bring attention to Alan's case." Baker, who as Governor has never commuted a prison sentence, refused to intervene. Even after a report issued by the Department of Justice confirmed that the treatment in DDU was torture.
"I was trying to stop physical assaults, and the threat of physical assaults. People keeping his food, trashing all his belongings, the only pictures he had of his son and tearing them to shreds. All the paperwork from his law case, they took it all and trashed it, 500 sheets, more than a ream of paper."
In the DDU they frequently moved inmates to prevent them from forming relationships with those in shouting distance. From his cell, he could view a bird nest, watch them taking turns sitting on the egg. "He sent me a daily diary and in it he's wrapped up in the life of the birds. I said, "Don't let them know, they'll move you." Before the eggs hatched, he was transferred to another cell.
He just got released into general population after four years of solitary confinement.
On the Practice of Solitary Confinement in Massachusetts
It was written a year ago, but it represented the practices I witnessed as recently as three months ago. - Caroline Bays wrote.