Deeper Than Water

The #DeeperThanWater FOIA project is an effort of the Deeper Than Water Coalition, which aims to expose the injustice of mass incarceration through the lens of water justice. This specific project aims to make available all public documents pertaining to the ongoing refusal of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to provide safe and clean drinking water to prisoners detained at MCI-Norfolk and surrounding facilities.

Since the early 1990’s, the water at MCI-Norfolk has been in contention, from the land to the water treatment plant to the water being used to drink and cook and shower. In 2011, after over a decade of prisoner complaints and ailments, the water ran completely dry due to a buildup of manganese and rust in the pipes. The DOC was eventually taken to court by the EPA, and a consent order was issued that required the DOC to make significant infrastructure changes to ensure the safety of the water. To date, the DOC has only moved money around in budgets, but taken no concrete steps to physically remedy the situation. In the interim, prisoners at Norfolk and in the surrounding facilities have catalogued a host of physical ailments that they have documented at great risk to themselves. For thumbnails of the full report, visit

One formerly incarcerated coalition member reports that in mid-1992, they were standing in the sun during a visit, when a family member noticed that their hair had turned green. We now know that this was most likely due to elevated levels of copper in the water, which the DOC has also admitted and then retracted at various times. Visit for more information.

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