25 Investigates: More inmates released from Mass. prisons and jails amid coronavirus fears

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — Nick Verdini’s father is listed as a medium-security inmate at the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater, serving a six-year sentence for unarmed robbery.

There are no reported coronavirus cases at the facility but Verdini worries that it is only a matter of time and that his 48-year old father’s health could be severely affected.

“He has hepatitis, and he has dormant tuberculosis, and so both of those put him at higher risk if he were to be infected,” said Verdini.

Old Colony Correctional is adjacent to the Massachusetts Treatment Center where 41 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 and four have died for the disease.

“On their floor, they all use the same phone. They all, you know, share spaces. There's about six men per cell,” added Verdini.

Following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and public defenders, the state’s highest court decided that certain non-violent offenders should be eligible for release to curb the spread of the virus.

According to the ACLU, judges have released 57 prisoners in Worcester County, 54 in Norfolk County, 47 in Suffolk County, 40 in Essex County, 38 in Plymouth and 31 in Bristol.

Thomas Quinn III is the District Attorney for Bristol County and does not favor the release of inmates for public safety reasons.

“I’m not suggesting that it was inappropriate by the court. But some of these individuals have no place to go if you have a drug issue and they relapse, that is a consequence that can result from this,” said Quinn. “We had someone fatally overdose over the weekend who was released.”

25 Investigates found inmates classified as violent offenders are also being released due to health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

Recently, judges agreed to free Glenn Christine from Lynn, a convicted child rapist who suffers from a number of medical conditions, including hypothyroidism, kidney disease and spinal stenosis, which requires him to use a wheelchair. Also freed is accused murderer William Utley from Boston and accused child rapist Matthew Parris from Raynham.

25 Investigates has learned two men charged in a deadly shooting at a Lynn playground in August are seeking early release. The Essex County District Attorney’s Office told 25 Investigates’ Ted Daniel that they are opposing the release of Luis Falcon and Regelleo Morrison, who were allegedly involved in shooting last summer that left one person dead.

According to an ACLU database, the number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts correctional facilities is rising daily. As of Thursday, 167 inmates and 135 staff have tested positive. Proponents of releasing inmates say the move will reduce the number of people who could become infected in prison and jails, where confined spaces make social distancing difficult.

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