A group of inmates at a maximum-security prison in Shirley attacked a correctional officer Friday, setting off a melee that prompted a lockdown of the facility, according to authorities.
The state Department of Correction confirmed details of the incident in a brief statement around 1:15 p.m.
“Earlier today, a correction officer was surrounded and then assaulted by inmates in the N1 general population housing unit at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center,” the statement said. “One of the correction officers involved in this incident immediately radioed for assistance. Additional correction officers responded and within minutes secured the area. Six inmates have been removed from the unit and the matter remains under investigation.”
Prosecutors have also been looped in.
“The District Attorney is being notified of this serious assault,” the statement said. "These inmates will be facing internal discipline and DOC staff will provide the Worcester District Attorney’s office with all available facts and evidence relating to the assaults."
Prison officials said that in addition to the officer who was the initial target of the alleged assault, two other officers were taken to a local hospital for evaluation and treatment.
As a result of the alleged attack, officials said, the prison was placed on lockdown, a status that involves restricted inmate movements and restricted visits.
In a separate statement, the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, which represents guards at the prison, said three officers were “seriously assaulted, resulting in severe injury, and transported by ambulance to area hospitals. One officer is currently undergoing surgery."
The union lamented what it said was recently enacted legislation that "grants inmates more rights, freedom, housing, and tier time. This This has allowed inmates to manipulate the system, and engage in violent action, increased gang activity, intimidation and assaults on officers and other inmates.
The legislation, the union said, “makes it inherently difficult for [officers] to do their job, and provide the security necessary, to make institutions more safe and secure.”
The prison has housed many high-profile inmates, including former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, who died by suicide in his cell there in 2017.