DOC backtracking on MCI-Framingham

It now looks like the troubled facility for women is closing

THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION appears to be backtracking on the troubled women’s prison at MCI-Framingham.

In October, when Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins said MCI-Framingham was closing and then later amended his statement to say parts of the facility were being shut down for renovations, the DOC said he was wrong on both counts. The agency said there was no renovation project happening at the facility that would reduce prison beds.

But earlier this month the state’s real estate arm began soliciting construction design firms to see if the Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk and the South Middlesex Correctional Center in Framingham could be remodeled to accommodate inmates from MCI-Framingham.

Source Framingham had the first report on the agency’s shift in thinking and MassLive followed up with a story saying the Department of Correction was taking “preliminary steps” to close MCI-Framingham and move the inmates elsewhere. “The goal would be to move the women by the spring of 2024,” MassLive reported.

According to the government notice seeking construction design firms, the Department of Correction is trying to find out whether Bay State, which is currently occupied by DOC employees, can be converted into a prison for about 200 female inmates from MCI-Framingham in medium and maximum security levels. The study also seeks input on whether South Middlesex, which is adjacent to MCI-Framingham, can be remodeled to serve as a stand-alone facility handling about 125 female detainees in pre-release and minimum security levels.

MCI-Framingham, the only women’s prison in Massachusetts, is in bad shape and it’s unclear whether it will be closed permanently or temporarily. It’s unclear how many inmates are in the facility currently, as a number of them have already been transferred elsewhere.

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Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Lee Unitt, a former inmate, is suing the state, alleging the facility was overcrowded and her living conditions were detrimental to her health. Her lawsuit alleges the temperature in her cell sometimes exceeded 100 degrees and she was exposed to harmful contaminants and poor air quality. A report filed in June 2019 by an inspector from the Department of Public Health found 107 repeat violations.