Mass. to close country's oldest women's prison

Officials say the high cost of repairing such an old facility necessitates the closure

Michelle Williams

BOSTON — Plans are underway to close MCI-Framingham, the oldest women’s prison in the U.S.

Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Thomas A. Turco confirmed the plans Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets, Commonwealth Magazine reported.

State correctional officials previously spoke of plans to close MCI-Framingham and move the women by the spring of 2024, citing a “prohibitive” cost of renovating the poorly maintained prison.

The state prison for women in Framingham first opened in 1877, with additional “cottages” opened in 1965. Four cottages were closed in 2016 after testing done in advance of a window energy efficiency project found high levels of PCBs, potentially harmful chemicals.

Current and former inmates and prison advocates have spoken out against alleged unsafe conditions in the prison.

A lawsuit filed by a former prisoner last fall alleged she was confined to a cell where the temperature reached 101 degrees. She suffered a stroke and three mini-strokes due to the heat.

A Department of Public Health inspection report for the prison from June 2019 found 107 repeat violations, ranging from moldy showers to rodent droppings to a need for more toilets for the number of inmates houses.

The projected cost to repair MCI-Framingham was estimated as high as $80 million by Turco, Commonwealth reported.

Citing the high price tag, correctional officials plan to close MCI-Framingham and relocate inmates to Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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