Doing hard time on the T

Vennochi, the new prisoner who just landed in the cellblock, has the same horrid reaction of all the newbies to the utter wretchedness of inmate life: The overcrowding, the cold waits in line, the acute sense that the correctional officers don’t give a rat’s rear about the complaints — or, if they do, realize they can’t change the system.

What has the new con most mystified is the resignation of us lifers — “the silence of the lambs,” she calls it. One old-timer, who presumably already has a long stint under her belt, tries to explain things to the new kid: “We’re beaten down,” she tells her.

The new prisoner is actually no law-breaker but estimable Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi, who weighs in today with a rant on her experience with the daily humiliation of being incarcerated on an MBTA subway car. Her particular sentence is to hard labor on the Orange Line, where she regularly watches several trains pass by with no room for new riders and recounts a late December episode familiar to anyone with even a small degree of T seasoning: The train breakdown, followed by the chaotic shift to shuttle buses. The Orange Line may have its unique horrors, but she should understand one thing: The can is the can, no matter which one they send you to to do your time.

Vennochi readily acknowledges she’s a T rider of all of six months — her sudden introduction to strap-hanger life presumably tied to the Globe’s move from its former car-friendly headquarters in Dorchester to downtown Boston.

That gives her fresh perspective on the state of our aged transit system. Her outrage at the dismal status quo is a welcome tonic, but how we beaten-down masses can channel our anger is hard to know. She suggests holding signs reading, “Attention, Amazon! This is what awaits you,” while packed like so many sardines on trains and platforms.

That might cause nervous state and city leaders with dreams of a Bezos bonanza to sit up and take notice. But to see real improvement in prison transit-riding conditions will take sustained pressure on the governor and legislative leaders along with a willingness of Boston’s mayor to  lead a fight for a system that is run by the state, but is the most essential ingredient to the functioning of his booming city.

–MICHAEL JONAS  


BEACON HILL

State leaders are facing a dicey budget year, with lots of big variables up in the air. (Boston Globe) House Speaker Robert DeLeo says broad-based new taxes are off the table, but he said he hopes a tax on short-term rentals can be enacted. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

New Bedford housing officials have sent notices to 26 families in public housing developments that they face eviction for sheltering evacuees from Puerto Rico who fled the island after Hurricane Maria in October. The Housing Authority has a 21-day limit for guests. (Standard-Times)

The Worcester City Council urges police to conduct stings targeting johns who solicit prostitutes in the city. (Telegram & Gazette)

Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis denies firing an employee for allegedly blowing the whistle on coworkers who were engaging in political activities on work time. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Randolph licensing board voted down a proposal to ban nips, the single-serve alcohol bottles, which became an issue because many users discard the empties on the streets. Boston and Chelsea are the only two communities in the state that ban nips. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Despite his “100 percent” promise to meet with the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in US elections, President Trump is now saying “we’ll see” after Robert Mueller indicated he would seek to interview the president. (New York Times)

House Republicans have issued a hardline immigration proposal that conflicts with a bipartisan effort to solve the issue. (New York Times) But a Herald editorial thinks a deal may be at hand — notwithstanding Trump’s lack of understanding of it. Some Democrats in Congress seem willing to give Trump some of what he wants on border security in order to secure a deal. (Boston Globe)

The new federal tax law will cost Massachusetts residents about $7.5 billion in deductions for state and local taxes, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. (State House News)

Two psychiatrists who co-authored a new book on Trump explain that they are not diagnosing the president with a mental illness but commenting on what they see as his dangerousness based on their expertise. (Boston Globe)

Moira Donegan, a former editor at The New Republic, said she created an online list of men in the media accused of sexual misconduct. Entitled “Shitty Media Men,” the spreadsheet was designed to let women warn each other about men to stay away from. (New York Times) Donegan also wrote about her list and the fallout it caused. (The Cut) A WBUR poll conducted by the MassINC Polling Group  indicates 33 percent of women voters in Massachusetts believe they have been sexually harassed.

ELECTIONS

The entrance of former sheriff Joe Arpaio into the Arizona US Senate race has Republicans alarmed that it could be another case similar to Roy Moore where a controversial and divisive candidate wins the GOP primary only to be defeated by a Democrat in the general election. (National Review)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A Brockton food warehouse and its affiliate distributor were ordered by the state attorney general’s office to pay nearly $500,000 for labor wage violations to 50 workers. (The Enterprise)

Amazon is reported to be seeking up to 1 million square feet of office space in Boston — but the search is separate from the company’s second headquarters sweepstakes. (Boston Globe) The story was broke by the Boston Business Journal, which has a paywall.

Federal officials have filed civil actions against Carlos Rafael, the New Bedford “Codfather” serving time for money smuggling and catch quota violations, seeking to revoke up to 38 scalloping permits issued to him. Previously, all the actions against Rafael had involved groundfishing violations. (Standard-Times)

What goes up… Should we be worried about a stock market crash? (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

The state’s education reform law turns 25 this year. There have been some major gains, but the law has failed to become the great equalizer of outcomes for students from poor and wealthier communities. What to do now? (CommonWealth)

A technological snafu complicated the sign-up process for Boston Public Schools families for next year, shortening the list of possible school choices, but Superintendent Tommy Chang said it would be fixed “immediately.” (Boston Herald)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Hospitals are improvising medication delivery amid a national shortage of IV bags due to the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico and knocked out power to one of the largest manufacturers of the bags. (Patriot Ledger)

TRANSPORTATION

Attorney General Maura Healey urged the MBTA to take a cautious approach to potentially hiring an Ohio-based company to take over bus maintenance services, given the firm’s shaky track record with the T. Healey’s letter puts her in league with most the state’s Democratic establishment in raising concerns about the T’s privatization plans. (Boston Herald)

The state sales tax is not providing as much funding for the MBTA as lawmakers projected when they directed that a penny of the tax go to the transit authority. (State House News)

The T is creating a new $120,000-a-year position for someone to oversee safety issues on the commuter rail. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

As temperatures rise, oil disappeared from the fuel mix of power generators in New England and  natural gas once again became the dominant fuel. (CommonWealth) A Globe editorial said power generators shouldn’t be burning oil and coal at all because of their greater emissions, and puts the blame both on foot-dragging on renewable energy initiatives and opposition by environmentalists to new natural gas pipelines.

Pilgrim Station, the nuclear power plant in Plymouth, reconnected to the power grid Wednesday at 6:23 p.m. after a six-day hiatus. The plant was manually shut down because of a damaged offsite transmission line 25 miles from the plant.

Local officials on Cape Cod have raised concern over a proposal by one of the three energy companies seeking to build a wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard to tie into the Cape’s electric grid and bury the cables underwater and underground running to the proposed transmission station in Hyannis. (Cape Cod Times)

A Herald editorial rips the “naked pandering” of the Trump administration decision to exempt Florida from a new order allowing offshore oil and gas drilling.

MARIJUANA

State and Boston police say they won’t take part in any federal crackdown on state-authorized pot shops. (Boston Herald) Former US attorney Donald Stern says the current US attorney, Andrew Lelling, should come clean and say definitively that he won’t (or will) prosecute retail marijuana shops that open under state regulations and licensing. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Boston study found only a modest benefit from police body cameras. (CommonWealth)

A prisoner advocacy group has filed suit on behalf of mentally ill inmates against Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson saying jail guards regularly place the inmates in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day without an evaluation of their mental state. (Associated Press)

MEDIA

Following the publication of an unflattering book, President Trump has vowed to take “a strong look” at the nation’s libel laws, which is about all he can do since experts say it’s beyond his power to change them. (New York Times)