Ventura’s tale offers a peek at the day-to-day impact of the state’s prison overcrowding problem.
He said the overcrowding had worsened drastically since he was in jail two years ago. He said cots have been set up in the cafeteria, the visiting room, the kitchen, the hallways. Fifty to 75 people were sharing one bathroom.
Ventura also charged that the overcrowding is a potential fire hazard, that inmates are sometimes given prison garb that is ripped or dirty, and that some of them are not getting proper medication. He complained that recreation is often canceled, that inmates don’t get enough food, and that he didn’t have a toothbrush or toothpaste while he was inside the jail.
A few days after that story was published, lawmakers toured a “sanitized” Whalley Ave.
“When you have inmates on the floor they have nowhere to lock up their personal property,” [a union rep] said. “The inmates are fighting over the bathrooms — when you have one toilet and 50 inmates, you can see it when they come back from chow — it’s an immediate run for the bathroom and a lot of times we have fights.”
Reporters were able to speak to inmates, although no cameras or recording devices were allowed past the front waiting area. Prisoners complained of unsanitary conditions, poor food, lack of recreation, and in many cases, lack of medical treatment.
But hearing tales of dirty linens and dirty, ripped uniforms — and seeing them firsthand — heightened concerns about MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant strain of staph infection that is spread in crowded, unsanitary conditions, and can be fatal. [The union rep] said it’s “running rampant” inside the jail.
All this comes on the heels of the Gov.’s parole ban and the swift explosion in the number of incarcerated inmates. Next week, the judiciary committee will start its public hearings on the the reform bills. It’s going to be an interesting week.