Resource: McDonald v. Fair and Catch the Hope: Understanding the Relationship Between Institutional Reform Litigation and Community Activism

By: Jill L. Feldman

April 12, 2002

This paper looks at the relationship between McDonald v. Fair--No. 80352 (Mass. Super. Ct. filed Dec. 20, 1985)--and the creation of Catch the Hope (CTH). McDonald was a class action lawsuit on behalf of women inmates at MCI-Framingham aimed at improving the prenatal and postpartum services the prison offered its pregnant inmates. During the course of the McDonald litigation local social justice advocates teamed up with the Department of Corrections and created CTH, a program that would institute the prenatal and postpartum services advocated for in the McDonald case. In Part I, the author explores the details of McDonald, including previous cases that focused on the needs of pregnant inmates, and the creation of CTH. In Part II, the author investigates the influence of McDonald and the status of CTH ten years later. The paper concludes that class action litigation, like McDonald, can be extremely helpful when it brings together different groups of activists for social reform. During the McDonald litigation and in the years since, the cause of pregnant inmates has brought together many different types of advocates--litigators, legislators, and non-profit leaders. Although the McDonald case never produced a groundswell of support amongst those outside this group of interested advocates, the findings in the paper show the real value of the McDonald litigation and the community activism that was and is related to the cause is still yet to be determined.

Resource Type(s):

Case Studies

Institution: Harvard

Related Cases:

McDonald v. Fair