LANCASTER, Mass. — On Friday, a group of local, bi-partisan legislators visited the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts.
The maximum-security prison, where some of the most ruthless criminals in the state are currently serving their sentences, is notorious for fights and issues that break out within the facility. Most recently, however, Souza-Baranowski has made headlines after three correctional officers were injured after being assaulted by three inmates.
The incident, which occurred on Jan. 10, was described as a “serious assault” and caused the prison to be placed on lockdown mode, which restricts movement and visits.
One correctional officer was in general population unit N1 when inmates surrounded and assaulted the officer, DOC spokesperson Jason Dobson told Boston 25 News. A source told Boston 25 News two more officers were assaulted in the incident when called for help via radio. One officer underwent surgery, and one suffered a fractured jaw and face disfiguration.
Following the incident, a lawsuit was filed against the prison on behalf of the inmates, who alleged the correction officers became abusive towards the inmates as retaliation for the attack on the three officers.
In the filings, the state argues that any liberties taken away from inmates was temporary while they secured the facility and investigated the January 10th incident.
Boston 25 News was invited to talk to the group of nine legislators who were taken into the prison with the union president for the correction officers to better understand the ongoing issues with recent incidents.
“One of the officers was brought into the cell and had to fight his way out and fight to get out of that cell," said Derek O’Connor, President of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union.
The legislators sat down with an inmate, correction officers and managers to learn more about what is going on inside the prison.
“This group, bi-partisan legislators who came together to hear from correction officers, to hear from inmates, what may be going in the right direction, what we may have to try to go back and work on," said David Muradian, of Grafton.
“Was this an isolated incident, or is it an ongoing pattern and [we’re] trying to figure out what they have to put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again," said Massachusetts House Minority Leader of North Reading Brad Jones. “And realize that even on the best day it is a tough day.”
In a statement, the D.O.C said inmates had certain liberties temporarily suspended in the wake of the attacks while officers worked to stop further violence," and that it “will review all complaints and vigorously defend the actions and decisions necessary to maintain the safety of staff, inmates, and visitors.”
“I don’t think anyone is being inhumane," said O’Connor. “I think we are all very professional. We have a use of force policy that we follow.”
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