Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, Lancaster, Massachusetts
January 10, 2020
According to state prison officials, a group of prisoners attacked guards, injuring three. The Massachusetts Department of Correction released a video where it appears the prisoners surrounded a guard and attacked them, as well as other guards who responded to the attack. After a few minutes, the attack ceased, and six prisoners were removed from the unit. The prison was then put on lockdown. It is unclear what motivated the attack.
As of January 22, the prison remained on lockdown and a recording warned those who called that all visitation was cancelled “until further notice.”
According to Mass Live, the prisoners involved in the attack are all members of the Latin Kings.
Following the attack, The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, which represents the guards at the prison, released a statement claiming that the attack was the result of recent reforms that have “relaxed rules and regulations.”
The attack occurred in the aftermath of a major operation by state and federal law enforcement to take down the Latin Kings throughout the state of Massachusetts, including significant efforts at targeting gang members operating within the state’s prisons and jails.
The attack occurred on the third anniversary of a major uprising at the prison that caused extensive damage and forced prison authorities to declare the unit a “total loss.” One prisoner, later interviewed by CBS Boston, said that the uprising was an act of civil disobedience.
In the aftermath, at least 40 prisoners have filed complaints with Prisoners Legal Services of Massachusetts claiming to have experienced beatings, verbal abuse, taking of their personal belongings, and/or being moved from their cells.
“A number of people tried to ask why the officers were doing this. When this happened, they were beaten further. One person was told by the CO [correction officer] that when one of their officers is assaulted, the entire prison will pay”, says Elizabeth Matos, the group’s executive director.
One prisoner who wishes to remain anonymous reports, “Officers just started tasering me, beating me, punching me, calling me the n-word — and I went to the outside hospital. I got stitches. I have a black eye, busted lip and my hands are still shaking.”
Family members and prisoner advocates asserted that prison guards have targeted prisoners not involved in the fight with brutalities such as dog attacks and tasing. A prisoner claims that guards turned off a surveillance camera before entering his cell in riot gear, and then assaulting him, according to the president of the National Association of Social Workers.
According to a statement put out by Massachusetts Department of Correction:
“A methodical search protocol and other temporary changes at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center have been undertaken to ensure the safety of staff, inmates, and the public, which remain DOC’s primary concern in the aftermath of serious assaults on correctional officers,” the statement said. “Any use of force under these circumstances is governed by DOC policy, and any alleged violations are thoroughly investigated.”
On Friday, January 31, a group of attorneys filed a suit against the DOC regarding the violation of prisoners’ constitutional rights. The lawsuit alleges the DOC denies prisoners access to lawyers and legal materials, in addition to facing abuse.
In the following days, five lawmakers made unannounced visits to the prison to investigate the allegations of abuse coming from the prisoners.
Header photo source: fox61.com
Article published: January 20, 2020, updated February 4, 2020.
“As Prisoners Allege Abuse, Mass. Lawmakrets Make Unannounced Visit To Souza-Baranowski Prison“, WBUR News, February 3, 2020.
“Corrections Officers targeting inmates at Shirley prison, allege advocates“, The Sun, February 3, 2020.
“Inmates Attack Guard at Massachusetts Max Security Prison“, WPRI, January 10, 2020.
“Prisoners Allege Beatings, Abuse At Mass. Max Security Prison“, WBUR News, January 31, 2020.
“Souza-Baronowski Correctional Center Remains on Lockdown Days After Gang Members Attacked Guards“, Masslive, January 14, 2020.