BOSTON (WWLP) – Some Massachusetts lawmakers question if additional oversight could prevent inmate suicides.
There were 25 suicides in state prisons between 2010 and 2016, according to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez is now another addition after he was found dead in his prison cell.
Some state lawmakers said prisons have inadequate services for mental health issues, which can lead to suicides. 20 state lawmakers support a bill that would ensure quality mental health services in state prisons.
Senator William Brownsberger, (D) Belmont, said, “The Department of Corrections has a lot of protocols in place when somebody is placed on suicide watch, or they have clear mental health issues; but as I understand it, in this case, there wasn’t an indicator of that. It wasn’t something that people were expecting or on the alert for.”
Some state lawmakers question if there should be additional surveillance in prison cells after the incident, but Senator Brownsberger told 22News it could be an invasion of privacy. He said, “A camera in every cell is a little bit of an intrusion. I think maybe in very, very high security situations that might be necessary, but I think there might be two sides to that issue.”
Many state prisons have security camera systems to monitor inmate activity in prison yards or in cafeterias. A maximum security prison in Lancaster, Massachusetts, operated by the state’s Department of Correction uses more than 360 cameras in their facilities to put prisoners under surveillance.
One state lawmaker filed a bill to establish a commission to study prisoner suicides. If passed, the commission will review state suicide prevention programs and recommend program changes.