Why Keep Dying Prisoners Behind Bars?

Why Keep Dying Prisoners Behind Bars?

By Jean Trounstine
MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry tried to take a humorous approach to the unforgiving times we live in with her letter to a turkey last week, where she asked President Obama to pardon people—not turkeys.

Pardon, the act of forgiving someone’s crime, has nearly dried up in the U.S. Of people who petitioned during Obama’s first four years, the president has pardoned only 22 people out of 1,019, or about 2 percent, less than any modern president, according to a report by ProPublica. Reagan pardoned 33 percent of those who petitioned, and George W. Bush pardoned 3 percent. In Massachusetts, pardons are virtually non-existent. In July, WBUR reported that “pardons have dwindled from 70 in the 1990s to … none in the past 10 years.”

Photo courtesy commonsenseevaluation.com

However, the fresh start that comes with a pardon isn’t exactly the plight of the thousands of sick and elderly prisoners in Massachusetts. They simply want to go home and die in peace. A report just released by Human Rights Watch and Families Against Mandatory Minimums creates a shocking picture of a broken compassionate-release system at the federal level for a growing population of sick and elderly prisoners. Among the findings is how the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) fails to bring prisoners’ cases to the courts.  To continue reading click here…

(This article was first published on Bostonmagazine.com and is excerpted here by permission)


Jean Trounstine

Jean Trounstine is an activist, teacher and author/editor of five published books, including the highly praised Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison. She worked at Framingham Women’s Prison for ten years where she directed eight plays, and in 1991, she co-founded the women’s branch of Changing Lives Through Literature, an internationally-known reading intervention for probationers.  She has written numerous articles about her work, most recently for Boston Magazine: “For the Massachusetts Parole Board, It’s Time for a Change,” November, 2012. She takes apart the criminal justice system brick by brick by blogging for Boston Daily, the Rag Blog and at “Justice With Jean,” www.jeantrounstine.com.