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Here’s what we know about the prison controversy in Shirley

The Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in 2017.
The Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in 2017.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Operations at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, the maximum security prison in Shirley, have come under scrutiny in recent weeks. Here’s a quick primer on what’s transpired behind the walls.

1] The initial attack — The trouble started on Jan. 10, when prison officials reported that a correctional officer was surrounded and attacked by a group of inmates in a north-side section of the prison; two other officers also were injured in the incident. Six inmates were removed from the unit as a result, the Department of Correction has said. The officer who was initially attacked suffered severe injuries that required hospitalization, and the two other officers also were taken to the hospital, prison officials have said.

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2] The alleged retaliation — In the ensuing weeks, according to prisoner advocates and lawyers for the inmates, correctional officers responded with a brutal crackdown that included attacks on prisoners, arbitrary confiscation of their property and clothing, and limited access to lawyers and showers.

3] The lawsuit ― On Friday, three Souza inmates along with the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed a lawsuit alleging misconduct by staff and requesting a preliminary injunction ordering the prison to permit prisoners to keep legal paperwork in their cells; that they be given sufficient time outside their cells during business hours to make attorney phone calls; and have contact visits with their lawyers.

4] The response from DOC — The DOC responded to the lawsuit Sunday, telling the Globe the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

"We will, however, vigorously defend all actions and decisions necessary to maintain the safety of staff, inmates, and visitors at the Commonwealth’s only maximum-security prison,” the DOC said in a statement.

“While some privileges have been restricted and some inmates were moved as staff searched the maximum-security facility for weapons and other contraband, this process was necessary to prevent further violence," the statement said. "Every effort was made to provide attorneys with reasonable access to their clients as soon as safety and security were restored.”

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The statement said inmates have been given increasing access to showers, phone calls, e-mails, and recreation following the search. In addition, the DOC follows use-of-force protocols; staff misconduct can be reported through multiple channels; and every report is investigated thoroughly, the statement said.

5] The status of the inmates suspected in the Jan. 10 attack — At the time of the initial Jan. 10 attack on the correctional officers, the DOC said the matter had been referred to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.'s office. No charges against any of the alleged attackers have been announced to date.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.




Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.