Prisoners say they’re being attacked by guards in retaliation for a mid-January riot that left several corrections officers hospitalized.
Inmates at Massachusetts’ Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center are suing the state Department of Corrections, claiming they’ve been subject to intense retaliation following an attack on a guard.
According to MassLive.com, inmates say they’ve been repeatedly victimized by guards. Corrections officers have allegedly tased, punched, and randomly attacked prisoners, many of whom had nothing to do with the January 10th ambush.
Plaintiff Robert Silva-Prentice claims he was in his cell last month when up to a dozen guards entered his cell ate Souza-Baranowski. Once inside, they seized his legal paperwork and beat him. Another inmate listed in the complaint, Dwayne Moore, accused other guards of binding and beating him. He, too, says that corrections officers stole his legal paperwork on the way out.
Attorney Victoria Kelleher wants a judge to take action against Souza-Baranowski.
“This is totally unacceptable,” Kelleher said, noting that inmates who allege assault have often been denied access to legal counsel. “This is the very time when clients most need their lawyers.”
Now, it appears the inmates may receive unexpected backing. According to The Boston Globe, a group of five state-level legislators visited Souza-Baranowski on Sunday. Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, said Department of Corrections officials told the lawmakers some punitive measures were implemented because they believe more attacks could take place against prison guards.
Eldridge also spoke to about 15 prisoners, many of whom alleged abuse at the hands of corrections officers.
“If you take a whole prison, and collectively punish everyone, isn’t that going to increase the tension [among] prisoners who had nothing to do with the attack?” Eldridge asked. “There really needs to be more programming, and access to family and phone calls. And that’s my view about how you reduce the tension.”
Eldridge’s suggestions echo many of the inmates’ own demands. The Globe notes that the lawsuit seeks a jury trial and preliminary injunction ordering, among other things, that Souza-Baranowski permit prisoners to keep legal paperwork in their cells. The complaint also requests that prisoners be allowed additional time to contact their attorneys during business hours, as well as increased access to counsel.
Rebecca Jacobstein, director of strategic litigation for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, told the Globe that her organization’s goal is simple: to ensure that inmates’ basic rights are respected.
“The bottom line of our complaint is, you may not deny people access to their attorneys,” she said. “When their rights are being violated, that is when they need their attorneys the most. And they were cut off.”