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Party's over for lifers: Prisons ban cons' Christmas banquets
By David R. Guarino
Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lifers won't be singing yuletide carols in state prisons for the first time in years under new party-ending rules issued yesterday by state correction officials.

Correction Commissioner Kathleen M. Dennehy sent new guidelines to prison superintendents banning all banquets, picnics and barbecues after complaints from a Charlestown murder victim's family.

``I don't think they should be rewarded for what they did - it's not an act of God, it's an act of murder,'' said Terry Titcomb, whose son, Albert, was murdered a decade ago. Titcomb's complaints in the Herald and to Gov. Mitt Romney [related, bio] about her son's murderer taking part in a holiday party at MCI-Norfolk inspired the ban.

``When they were convicted by a jury, no parties were included in that package,'' Titcomb said.

The new guidelines include an outright ban on annual parties.

They also lay out strict procedures for any type of organized activity, mandating the event meets certain criteria before it may occur - including proving it will ``promote self-improvement,'' ``foster cultural awareness'' or ``promote spiritual growth.''

All activities must be approved by three top state officials and must get a follow-up evaluation the next year.

One state official said the prisoners will have to jump through so many hoops for the events, they're likely to give up.

Titcomb complained to Romney this fall after hearing about the annual holiday party among inmates serving life sentences at the Norfolk prison. Among those participating, she said, was Shawn Fitz, who was convicted of shooting Albert Titcomb execution-style in 1994.

Some prison-rights advocates and families objected to the clampdown, saying it might infringe on inmates' abilities to see their families. But Dennehy said family visits will be allowed as always and that prisoners can host gatherings if they meet the new criteria.

She also said prison food such as cakes and cookies will be available - if prisoners pay for it from their canteen funds. But food cannot be brought in, as was the custom at past banquets.

``We're not outlawing Christmas, we are outlawing the excesses of the past,'' Dennehy said. ``It is certainly appropriate to make arrangements for extended visits, particularly with children, around the holidays.

``But we are not in the business of parties. We are looking to change behavior and fight crime.''

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Re: re: Prisons Ban Cons' Banquets

Maybe the Commish is finally waking up and realizing that these guys need to do some hard time and stop crying. Semper Fi,
I doubt that... I really do. The kinder, nicer, easier corrections system.

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Date Posted: 10:10:30 03/08/05 Tue

Lifers' ‘family’ fest eludes ban on parties -- Disgusted, 08:57:10 03/08/05 Tue
Just two months after state prison parties were publicly banned, 30 lifers and more than 50 guests were feted at an MCI-Norfolk event that outraged families of victims say makes a mockery of the policy.
Judy Hartnett of South Boston said it was disturbing to hear the man who killed her daughter by stabbing her then setting her on fire, was among those enjoying juice and cookies with his family.
``It makes me feel terrible to know that he's having his cookies and having a good time,'' Hartnett said of James Cyr, who killed Tara Hartnett, 21, in 1993.
The Feb. 26 party came two months after the Herald reported on new rules set by the Department of Correction for prison events. Officials, responding to a column in the Herald about the parties, banned holiday get-togethers, barbecues and picnics.
The new regulations require approvals from three top department officials before any inmate parties are held. Officials said in December that they hoped the rule would discourage party requests.
But documents show the Feb. 26 party for lifers - those convicted of first- or second-degree murder - was approved by officials just one month after applications were filed.
The event required extra corrections officers. But coffee, tea, juice, cake and cookies were paid for with $300 in prisoner canteen funds.
Prison officials say the gathering wasn't a party at all - but a ``family reunification'' event.
Kelly Nantel, the department's chief of constituency services, said the event was meant to bring together prisoners and their family members as a part of rehabilitation programming.
She said the setting was particularly beneficial for children.
``The commissioner stands behind this event,'' Nantel said. ``It is completely in keeping with the regulations she established.''
Still, a list of inmates and guests cleared to attend the event - obtained by the Herald and confirmed by Nantel - includes sons or daughters of only 13 of the 34 inmates. Nineteen of the 96 guests on the list were listed as ``friends.''
``To call it `family' and have friends come, that is unacceptable, unacceptable,'' said Teresa Titcomb, a Charlestown mother who lobbied for an end to parties after her son's killer took part in a Christmas event. ``(Officials should) come up with a better cover story - please.''
It's unclear whether those on the invited list appeared at the event, though prison officials said the final tally was 30 inmates and 54 guests.
``Call it what you want, it's a party. You can put a dress on a pig, it's still a pig,'' said Steve Kenneway, president of the 5,000-member Massachusetts Correctional Officers Federated Union.

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Home > News & Opinion > Local / Regional News

Past 7 days Archives Google
Juice and cookies with murderers
Tuesday, March 8, 2005

These men were among 35 inmates cleared for a `family reunification' event being criticized as a party held two months after a ban on banquets, picnics and other events was put in place.
# Kenneth Seguin
Crime: In 1992, the Holliston man killed his children - Daniel, 7, and Amy, 5 - by slashing their throats, then bludgeoned his wife, Mary Ann, 34, with an ax.
Guests: Brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew.

# Christopher Pucillo
Crime: One of three men convicted in the 1993 murder of Ralph James Tracy, 17, who was drugged, beaten, kicked, stabbed and held underwater in a Sharon pond.

Guests: Brother, sister-in-law, niece.

# Brian Peixoto
Crime: The 1996 beating death of 3-year-old Christopher Affonso Jr. during an argument with the boy's mother, Piexoto's girlfriend, which began while watching the `Ricki Lake' show, and escalated when the boy wet his pants.
Guests: Father, sister, niece, daughter.

# James Cyr
Crime: The 1993 murder of Tara Hartnett, 21, whom he stabbed eight times, poured gasoline on her and then set her on fire inside a Greenfield house.
Guests: Aunt, grandmother.

# Michael Mims
Crime: Stabbing death of Belinda Lee Miscioscia, a 38-year-old mother of three, in Chelsea in 1993.
Guests: Sister, niece, two nephews.

# Martin McCauley
Crime: The 1981 shooting death of Carlos Madariaga, manager of the Casa Romero Restaurant in the Back Bay, while holding the eatery up for $496.
Guests: Sister, niece, nephew

# Stephen David
Crime: The 1990 beating death of fellow homeless man Abraham Champlain, 43, in Quincy's Faxon Park along with three other men who believed the man had stolen some of their belongings.
Guests: Father, mother.

# Robert Bianchi
Crime: Shooting murder of his estranged wife, Donna, 23, in 1994. Bianchi, a competitive weightlifter, said steroids had twisted his mind.
Guests: Mother, son, friend.

# Ronald Allard
Crime: The 1995 clubbing murder of Christopher McGrory, 17, in Springfield on the day Allard was told by his ex-girlfriend that she was scrapping their plans to marry and would instead date McGrory.
Guests: Mother, sister, son, nephew.

# Dominick Williams
Crime: The 1981 shooting death of Alton Whitaker, 22, of Roxbury, over a $300 portable stereo.
Guests: Friend.
Source: Guest list for Feb. 26 event obtained by the Herald and confirmed by the Department of Correction; News clippings about crimes, trials and convictions.

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Guards: Party's over for prisons commish
By Kimberly Atkins
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Prison guards called for the ouster of the state correction commissioner yesterday after reports that lifers gathered with family and friends for a sanctioned event that critics say violates no-party rules.

The president of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union said a Herald story detailing the Feb. 26 event at MCI-Norfolk shows Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy must go.

``The Massachusetts prison system has become a national embarrassment under your watch,'' union president Steve Kenneway wrote to Gov. Mitt Romney [related, bio]. ``(Dennehy's) tenure must end.''

Kenneway said a recent poll of union guards showed 99 percent lack confidence in Dennehy's leadership.

The 5,000-member union is currently in contract renegotiations with the department.

``There is a reason we have no confidence in her and this is it,'' he said. ``Obviously we have no confidence in the governor'' if he does not remove her.

The Herald reported yesterday that convicted killers at the MCI-Norfolk event were allowed to party with friends and family over cookies and juice.

One inmate at the event, James Cyr, was convicted of stabbing 21-year-old Tara Hartnett of South Boston and setting her body on fire in 1993.

Dennehy defended a newly enacted regulation allowing prison parties so long as three top department officials give approval - a policy blasted by victims' families.

``For reasons of productive programming for inmates and breaking the cycle of violence, the commissioner feels that the policy the DOC enacted a few months ago is appropriate,'' said Diane Wiffin, spokeswoman for Dennehy.

Wiffin had no comment on the letter sent to Romney's office.

Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said there are no plans to remove Dennehy.

``Gov. Romney believes Commissioner Dennehy is doing an excellent job,'' Feddeman said.

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``Gov. Romney believes Commissioner Dennehy is doing an excellent job,'' Feddeman said.
Yeah an excellent job screwing the DOC officers and offending everyone from victims to cops to civilians sitting on the sidelines who know DAMN WELL that this is wrong.
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