On Tuesday afternoon, the Baker administration unveiled its comprehensive plan to transform Bridgewater State Hospital from a correctional facility to a more clinically focused health treatment center.
According to Secretary of Public Safety and Security Dan Bennett, 190 correctional officers will be removed from Bridgewater’s interior and stationed in alternative locations, including the facility’s exterior. In turn, mental health specialist will have full control of the building’s interior.
Inmates convicted of serious crimes such as rape and murder will be transferred to the Old Colony Correctional Center (a medium security facility). This move will provide space for civilly committed patients to receive more substantial treatment.
The administration’s plan follows years of increased scrutiny due in large part to the deaths of Joshua Messier and Leo Marino. In 2009, Messier had a schizophrenic attack and died as Bridgewater officers subdued him. Last April, Marino was in a segregated cell within the Intensive Treatment Unit when he killed himself with toilet paper. Marino’s suicide led to a biting report from the Disability Law Center and a cry for the organization to be placed in receivership.
According to State Rep. Liz Malia, the new plan represents a shift from inmate to patient. Although there is much debate around oversight responsibilities, advocates and the administration both agree that the new plan is a step in the right direction.