Lawsuit: Prisoners attacked in retaliation for guard assault

February 5, 2020 GMT

SHIRLEY, Mass. (AP) — Inmates at a Massachusetts prison say they were subject to unprovoked attacks by a tactical prison team in retaliation for an assault on a correction officer, according to a lawsuit.

The inmates allege that they were not involved in the Jan. 10 attack in a general population housing unit at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, when officials said a group of inmates surrounded and attacked a guard. Three guards, including the initial target of the attack, were injured. Six inmates were removed from the unit as a result.


According to the lawsuit, which was filed last week by attorneys for at least three inmates, the prisoners say they have been tased, punched, bitten by dogs and isolated and been kept from getting full access to their attorneys. The inmates also claim legal paperwork has been confiscated.

Lawmakers and prisoners’ rights advocates say they have interviewed at least 40 inmates who reported being attacked or not being allowed to call their lawyers. Several state lawmakers led an unannounced inspection at the prison Sunday and spoke to about 15 inmates. There was a legislative briefing Monday.

The tactical team responsible for the alleged attacks on the inmates is no longer at the prison, but conditions there are still “austere,” executive director of the Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, Elizabeth Matos told MassLive.com in an email.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial. It also asks for a preliminary injunction ordering the prison to allow inmates to keep their legal paperwork in their cells, be given sufficient time to contact attorneys during business hours and have contact visits with their lawyers.

The Department of Correction said in a statement that “every effort was made to provide attorneys with reasonable access to their clients as soon as safety and security were restored.” The agency said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.