• Ruth Greenberg

    Ruth Greenberg is a School of Law lecturer and teaches in the Compassionate Release Practicum and the Wrongful Convictions Clinic. She is a longtime criminal defense lawyer who practices at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and at the First Circuit. She represented both Ray Harmon and Alex Phillips against the DOC. Profile

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There are 3 comments on POV: Governor Baker Should Not Be Afraid to Set Dying Prisoners Free

  1. I think some fact check is needed here. The Boston Globe reported in July that the DOC confirmed that 4 individuals were granted medical parole since its incepetion.

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/07/15/first-year-medical-parole-just-four-inmates-granted-reprieve/cHf9pcDys4lB1uIToRiW9K/story.html

    Meanwhile Ruth persists here on September 24, that only two made it out alive. Not sure what to believe in this piece or how many other errors are in this POV…

    1. Ruth and other attorneys working on this have repeatedly tried to confirm to whom DOC has granted medical parole to through official and unofficial channels and cannot confirm more than two releases. Its a very opaque process. Also, even if four people have been released, Ruth’s assertions in this article are spot on. The DOC is not granting medical parole, even when the relevant district attorney’s office assents and even when the people are terribly sick. Once a person requests medical parole, DOC treatment of them seems to deteriorate. I have been in these prisons, and I have seen my clients do their time through illness and otherwise. Prisons are cruel institutions. Ruth is doing the work of freeing the dying mostly without compensation. Her POV should be considered carefully for all of those who care about the importance of recognizing the humanity in all people, and treating people humanely no matter who they are.

  2. The first thought that came into my head when reading this was the case of Albert Flick. Albert Flick killed his wife, went to prison, got out, assaulted another woman, went back to jail, got out, and attacked a third woman. Yet a judge deemed he was “too old to pose a threat to anyone” because by the time he would be released he would be 72 or 73. Eight years later, Flick fatally stabbed another woman. Statistically speaking, yes elderly prisoners released re-offend about 13.4% of the time compared to those under the age of 21 who reoffend about 68% of the time.
    That being said, the elderly and the terminally ill are not exactly the same. But where do we draw the line? Should it be that released prisoners should be literal vegetables where it’s physically impossible for them to kill someone? I personally like the DOC’s “inmates must have specific plans for their release and prove they are incapable of harm” though I would like to hear the DOC elaborate on what “incapable of harm” means exactly.
    I also disagree with”men who should and are entitled to be free die in chains”. These people have commit a crime (assuming they’re not wrongfully convicted, but that’s an issue of it’s own) and their debt to society must be paid. Poor health, in my opinion, is not a good reason to grant criminals their freedom. These people lost their entitlement to their freedom when they committed crimes.
    Lastly, if prisoners ARE released, I do hope they’re at least monitored, especially the violent offenders. I hope law enforcement at least puts ankle monitors on them and tracks them. I don’t trust in hoping that people won’t re-offend. I want law enforcement to MAKE SURE they don’t re-offend. I’d be damned if we underestimate an ill prisoner and an innocent life is taken.

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