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April 23
Editorial: Room for BC

March 6
Op-Ed: Give laity role in church
Op-Ed: ...but they have one

February 28, 2004
Editorial: Toll of church abuse

January 9, 2004
Editorial: Keeping faith

December 29
Editorial: When churches close

December 14
Essay: A new passing

December 6
Editorial: A humbler church

November 4
Vennochi: The blame game

September 27
Op-Ed: O'Malley needs support

September 22
Walker: Children must be first

September 10
Editorial: Serious settlement

September 7
McNamara: A back-page death

September 5
McGrory: Gov. can do better

August 29
Op-Ed: Geoghan's 'innocence'

August 25
Editorial: One more victim

August 12
Editorial: O'Malley's gesture

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

  Eileen McNamara  

A back-page prison death


 Related stories
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Guards' ad seeks understanding

Inquiry: Druce beaten as a child

Druce pleads not guilty to killing
Geoghan claimed guard assault

Report describes Druce in a rage

Letter says Druce abused as boy

Inmate: Geoghan bore abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluging accused

Expanded Geoghan panel sought

Druce is returned from hospital

McNamara: A back-page death

Geoghan consultant's ties eyed
McGrory: Romney can do better

Conflict issue raised on consultant

Bias concerns are raised in probe

No new members seen for panel

Geoghan panel will be expanded

Group assails prison guards
Geoghan is buried in Brookline
Op-Ed: Geoghan's 'innocence'

Priest in 'aggressive' case unit
Records show Druce as deviant
Voiding of record is challenged

Bid to keep Geoghan at Concord
Geoghan's death voids conviction
Prison units see volatile mixes
US attorney won't rush decision

Monthlong plot to kill Geoghan
Alleged killer led troubled life

Geoghan was tied and beaten
Death doesn't end victim suffering
Similiarities in suspect's '88 crime
Priest seen as a prison target

Geoghan is strangled in prison
A troubled life exploiting vocation

Geoghan case letters, documents
Law deposition in Geoghan case

 From the archives
Key stories in the Geoghan case

Church allowed abuse for years

Geoghan found guilty of sex abuse

Geoghan receives 9-10 years

Law recalls little on Geoghan case

Geoghan victims settle for $10m

 Complete coverage
The John Geoghan case

The Commonwealth knows who killed John Geoghan in his prison cell. Shouldn't it invest some time and energy to find out why Kelly Jo Griffin died in hers?

While we debate the makeup of the panel investigating the circumstances surrounding the August death of Geoghan, the infamous pedophile priest, no independent inquiry has been launched into the death of the 24-year-old Lynn mother of three at MCI-Framingham a month earlier.

Griffin had been convicted of no crime when she was confined to the state's prison for women on July 21 to await a court appearance the next day on an outstanding default warrant. Housing women yet to be charged at the same prison with those already convicted is not an uncommon practice, given the scarcity of services for women in the criminal justice system in Massachusetts.

But Griffin belonged in a detox unit, not a prison cell, according to the relatives, activists, and prisoners' rights lawyers who have taken up her case in the wake of her sudden death. Griffin was suffering symptoms of heroin withdrawal and other medical ills when she arrived at Framingham, says Howard Friedman, a civil rights attorney who is trying on her family's behalf to reconstruct events preceding her death.

"There are a limited number of facts we know, but one of them is that this woman did not belong in a state prison," says Friedman, who is seeking court and medical records to determine why she wound up at Framingham and what kind of care she got for the 24 hours she was there. "They may have revived her briefly at the hospital but this is a prison death." Griffin was pronounced dead at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham.

Friedman is not the only one asking questions. The American Friends Service Committee, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, Inc. are all disturbed by Griffin's death. Representative Deborah D. Blumer, a Framingham Democrat, thinks a legislative inquiry, public hearing, or both are warranted because of the systemic problems raised by the case.

"I have a lot of questions, from the arrest to the court action to the transfer to MCI-Framingham to how our failure to fund detox beds has turned Framingham into the detox system of last resort," says Blumer, who will ask the Women's Legislative Caucus this week to join her call for a probe of Griffin's death independent of the state Department of Correction. "It's hard to tell without the records where all the puzzle pieces fit, but the Post-Audit Committee has subpoena power so we might need to go that route."

Representative Kay Khan, a Newton Democrat, has been fighting for years to establish an advisory board to provide independent oversight of the state prison system, routine in other states, but the legislation languishes and dies each year on Beacon Hill. "Prisoners are not a very popular constituency," notes Leslie Walker, executive director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, which provides legal aid to inmates.

And female inmates are less visible than men, says John Reinstein of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. "Men's prisons always get more public attention, maybe because the women lack the raw brutality we saw in the Geoghan case," he suggests. "But Kelly Jo Griffin is still dead."

Complaints about the inadequacy of substance abuse programs for women statewide and the quality of medical care at the women's prison in particular go back decades. A number of suicides and deaths in the 1990s at Framingham raised specific questions of medical negligence and broader doubts about then-governor William F. Weld's decision to privatize prison health services.

Prisoners' advocates were hopeful that care would improve this year when the University of Massachusetts-Worcester won the state contract from the much-criticized Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis.

"It might be better, but it didn't help Kelly Jo Griffin," notes Friedman. "We just want to know what happened."

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