Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and District Attorney Rachael Rollins today called on Governor Charlie Baker to reduce Massachusetts’ incarcerated population, following a spike of COVID-19 cases.

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, released the following statement:

“Public health experts have warned that prisons and jails can become vectors for the rapid spread of COVID-19 inside facilities and in the surrounding communities. When the ACLU filed its lawsuit in March, there were reportedly a handful of infections inside Massachusetts prisons and jails. Now, over 1,500 prisoners and staffers have been infected statewide, and cases are surging. Ten people have died in DOC and county facilities. Let’s be clear: Ending mass incarceration is a matter of life and death. Governor Baker must do everything in his power to ensure that prison sentences do not become de facto death sentences as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak.”


The ACLU, CPCS, and MACDL filed an emergency petition in late March, asking the Supreme Judicial Court to take immediate action to limit outbreaks of COVID-19 by reducing the number of people who are incarcerated in Massachusetts jails, prisons, and houses of correction. On April 3, the Court issued an order that will help some pretrial detainees seeking release due to the pandemic. To date, the lawsuit has resulted in the release of over 4,000 people.

The lawsuit is one of several ACLU efforts to save the most vulnerable from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic’s start, the ACLU of Massachusetts has filed several legal actions related to detention centers, prisons, and jails, and has urged Governor Baker to decrease the number of people who are currently incarcerated in Massachusetts. 

At its 2020 Annual Meeting tonight, the Boston Bar Association will honor the lawyers who work together to represent incarcerated people during the pandemic. The ACLU is among those being honored for its work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in detention centers, prisons, and jails.

For data about COVID-19 in prisons and jails, click here.