Proposed Massachusetts bill would reduce inmate sentences if they donate organs
BOSTON – A proposed law in Massachusetts would allow inmates to get up to a year off their prison sentence in exchange for donating their organs or bone marrow.
Under HD.3822, called the Massachusetts Incarcerated Bone Marrow and Organ Donation Program Establishment Act, eligible individuals incarcerated could be given between 60 and 365 days of prison time in exchange for the donation.
The bill was tabled Jan. 20 in the Massachusetts State House by state representatives Carlos González and Judith A. García.
If passed, the law would create a five-member committee to oversee the implementation and ongoing administration of the program, consisting of two correctional facility officials, a bone marrow and organ donation specialist from a state hospital, an organ donation advocate, and a prisoner rights advocate.
The committee would set the eligibility standards to participate in the donation program and the amount of penalty that would be commutation. It would also file annual reports on the amounts of bone marrow and organs donated and the estimated “lives saved associated with those donations,” the bill said.
“No commissions or monetary payments may be made to law enforcement for bone marrow donated by inmates,” she adds.
Garcia, a Democrat representing District 11 of Suffolk in Chelsea, did not respond to a request for comment. But the legislature shared an infographic on Twitter about the legislation – which says there is currently no route to organ or bone marrow donation for people incarcerated in the state, even if a relative were in need.
The bill would “restore physical autonomy to incarcerated people by providing the ability to donate organs and bone marrow,” the graphic reads.
It also mentioned the long waiting list for organ transplants. In Massachusetts, more than 4,000 people in the state are currently waiting for organs.
However, many have raised concerns about the bill, including its potential for coercion.
“Incarceration is NOT a place of autonomy or adequate medical care. It’s coercive and disrespectful.” one person wrote in response to Garcia’s tweet.
“HD 3822 is terrifying. It assumes that people who are incarcerated retain full physical autonomy and access to medical care. This is not ‘physical autonomy restoration’. It takes advantage of those incarcerated in our state.” another answered.
State data shows that nearly 28% of people arrested in Massachusetts last month were black and 29% were listed as Hispanic/Latino. Meanwhile, these groups make up just 9.3% and 12.8% of the state’s population, respectively.
Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, an advocacy and legal aid group, said in a statement to FOX Television Stations that they are in contact with the sponsors of the bills to better understand the intent behind the legislation and said they “share many of concerns”. in relation to the potential for coercion and the impact of inadequate medical care in prisons.
“We understand that some inmates may wish to donate organs to loved ones, and we are also aware of the racial inequality in our healthcare system that has put people (Black, Indigenous and Colored) at higher risk for unmet needs in this critical area,” PLS Policy Director Jesse White said in a statement.
White added, “We believe the solution must address the underlying structural issues that are driving health inequalities, including the continued needless incarceration of so many who could live freely and safely in our communities.”
González, the other co-sponsor of the bill, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Democrat, who represents Massachusetts’ 10th District of Hampden in Springfield, told Boston.com that a number of medical conditions put people of color at risk for organ failure, pointing to a higher and higher risk of diabetes and heart disease among Hispanic and black people Population groups and rates of chronic liver disease in Hispanics.
González told the news outlet that expanding the pool of potential donors could be an effective way to increase the likelihood that these patients will receive critical care.
“We must give every person who is incarcerated the guidance of medical experts and attorneys to ensure them the same rights and opportunities that every individual in Massachusetts has to lead the life of their mother, father, brother, sister,… child or his friend,” González told Boston.com.
“In my view, there is no compelling reason to exclude inmates,” he added. “One of our goals is to provide information and education about the disproportionate number of Black and Latino people who are dying while waiting for donors.”
Kevin Ring, president of nonprofit advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, told Insider that the program “seems like something out of a sci-fi book or a horror story.”
“It’s just this kind of idea that we have this class of subhumans, their body parts [we] will reap because they are not like us or because they are so desperate for freedom that they would be willing to do so,” Ring told the news agency.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.