Dad of Mass. CO attacked by inmate pushes lawmakers for safer working conditions

Mass. CO Matthew Tidman remains hospitalized after inmate's assault with 15-lb. barbell

By Luis Fieldman

SHIRLEY, Mass. — The father of a Massachusetts correction officer — who was attacked last month and remains on life support — is pushing for lawmakers to create safer working conditions for correction officers across the state.

Correction officer Matthew Tidman, 36, was attacked by an inmate of the MCI-Shirley medium-security prison with a metal weight to the head on Aug. 31, and Tidman remains hospitalized and in intensive care at Boston hospital to date. The attack left Tidman with severe neck and head injuries and he was placed on life support, a union representing correction officers said.

John Tidman wants safeguards in place to prevent future attacks, like the attack on his son.
John Tidman wants safeguards in place to prevent future attacks, like the attack on his son. (GoFundMe)

“I got the phone call that parents dread,” John Tidman, the officer’s father, told WCVB. “The safeguards have to be put in place to prevent this from happening again. As we’re sitting here, there are correction officers working in that Shirley medium-care facility that are at risk.”

“You have to have qualified people running prisons and transporting prisoners and running the paperwork that can prevent this from happening in the future,” he added.

“As a union, we are asking for an investigation into how and why this happened,” Kevin Flanagan, the legislative representative of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, previously told MassLive.

Meghan Kelly, a spokesperson for the Middlesex District Attorney, previously told MassLive that investigators are pursuing criminal charges in the matter.

WCVB reported that a group of bipartisan state lawmakers toured the prison facility on Friday and met with Tidman’s family about what happened in the prison.

“You had a convicted murderer from another prison, who was threatening the guards in the prison in another state, allowed to come to Massachusetts and be let loose in an environment that he shouldn’t have been in,” said state Rep. Steven Xiarhos of the 5th Barnstable District.

John Tidman told WCVB he believed that a “high-risk” convict got placed in the medium- and minimum-security prison. He is also pushing for legislation that makes the corrections officers feel safer while on duty.

“They are at risk if this type of action continues where the filtering of a convict that is a high-risk or violent person is filtered into people that are less violent,” he added. “The outcome is obvious.”

He continued, “Talking with the correction officers, they feel that the vote is always swayed in the favor of the prisoners, to the point where they’re saying that the prisoners are running the prison.”

State Rep. Timothy Whelan, representing the 1st Barnstable District and a candidate for sheriff of Barnstable County, told WCVB, “Too many people up on Beacon Hill listen only to the advocates and they don’t listen to the people who are in the trenches, on the front line.”

Flanagan said the Massachusetts Department of Correction had closed down the gym and is in the process of removing all the free weight equipment from its maximum security centers.

“As a union, we are asking for an investigation into how and why this happened,” Flanagan said.

“The inmate struck Officer Tidman in the head with the piece of equipment,” the statement by the correction officers union read. “He immediately fell to the floor where the inmate wielded the equipment and struck Matt several more times in the head.”

The equipment was described as a 10- to 15-pound piece of lead gym equipment. The union stated that the injuries to Tidman were so severe he had to be rushed by a medical flight to a hospital and that he remains on life support to date.

“What occurred that day is unfathomable and should never occur in any of our prisons,” the union wrote. “This was nothing short of attempted murder.”

GoFundMe fundraiser for Matthew Tidman has collected over $107,000 in donations as of Sunday morning.

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